If you’re suspected of an offense or facing court-martial, it is critical that you understand your rights. Remember that your sacrifice and service does not deprive you of fundamental rights under the United States Constitution, such as the right against self-incrimination and access to legal counsel, and no one, not even the command, can violate these rights.
Pursuant to Article 31(b) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, servicemembers have an absolute right against self-incrimination—in other words, being forced or misled into answering questions about involvement in a crime. Servicemembers must be informed of a suspected offense(s) before being questioned by an agent of the Federal government (including law enforcement and command representatives) and cannot be coerced into answering questions. The right to remain silent is absolute.
As a servicemember, you also have the right to a free military lawyer when being questioned as a suspect in a crime, upon preferral of court-martial charges, or upon apprehension by law enforcement. Furthermore, a servicemember may also choose an individual military counsel, as well as employ a civilian defense counsel at no cost to the Federal government. Remember that no matter the specific legal circumstances you confront, you are entitled to legal representation—and you should utilize it.
All servicemembers have the unfettered right to refuse an Article 15 and/or non-judicial punishment. Too often, servicemembers are bullied by their commands into accepting non-judicial punishment for a crime they may not have committed, or where there is clearly insufficient evidence to prove the alleged misconduct. You should not accept Article 15/non-judicial punishment until you have spoken with legal counsel on the matter.