If you have recently joined the military, you may not be aware that the Uniformed Code of Military Justice is the law of the land. It supersedes state and federal law for members of the military, and although civilian law and military law are very similar in many ways, they are different and it is important that you understand your rights as an individual. If you should find yourself in a situation where you are being arrested, you will have your UCMJ rights read to you instead of your Miranda rights that you are likely more familiar with. Here are a few basic tips you can keep in mind should you ever find yourself in trouble with the military police.
Just like if you are being arrested by civilian police, the first thing you should do is keep quiet and request a lawyer. Much like how the “anything you say can be used against you in a court of law” provision is present in Miranda rights, a similar phrase is present in your UCMJ rights so it is smart to never resist arrest, never argue with the military police and request a lawyer as soon as you possibly can. An interesting note, military members were granted the right to have their UCMJ rights read to them a full 16 years before the Supreme Court gave Miranda rights to civilians!
The UCMJ spells out all of the rights afforded members of the military, so there really can’t be any confusion or misinterpretation of the rights you actually have. In addition to your Miranda-like rights, you also have the right to never incriminate yourself, again, just like in civilian law. You also have the right to know what you are being accused of, what you are being held for and what you are on trial for at all times. There are many rights present today in civilian law that came from military courts over the years.
It is important to note that your UCMJ rights actually differ from Miranda rights because you don’t have to be read your Miranda rights until you are arrested, but your UCMJ rights must be read to you as soon as you are a suspect of a crime. That means that if you were questioned, or brought into a police station without your UCMJ rights being read to you, there is a good chance that all of that information will be thrown out.
Ask any defense lawyer what you should do if you have your rights read to you and they will all tell you to ask for a lawyer as soon as you can. Remember, clamming up isn’t admitting guilt, no matter what the police officer tells you. He or she is trying to get a confession out of you so talking to them is often a bad idea.
As you can see, the UCMJ isn’t really all that different than civilian law, and many experts actually believe it is a much more fair way to try a case.