Your Rights When Facing a Court-Martial – Part III

If you are the spouse of a service member, your right to remain silent is different from that of the service member. The authorities only have to advise the spouse of the right to remain silent and have an attorney present if they are suspected of having committed an offense and are held in custody. While distressing, this situation is rare.

More frequently, the spouses of service members are approached to assist investigators in getting information to be used against their spouse in a court-martial.  This generally arises in the area of child abuse, spousal abuse or drug abuse, but is not limited to those categories.

With limited exceptions, spouses of service members cannot be forced to speak with any military law enforcement officials about any alleged crime involving their spouse. It doesn’t matter whether they themselves are in the military, spouses generally cannot be forced to give information that could be used to support a court-martial against their spouse.  Many people do not realize this, but investigators will lie and often leave spouses with the impression that they must provide information.  The courts long ago recognized the right of law enforcement agents to lie in order to conduct an investigation.  Remember, they are not there to help – they are there to collect evidence to support a court-martial.

Spouses cannot be forced to consent to a search of their house, car, or other belongings by military law enforcement officials gathering evidence to support a court-martial. Spouses can refuse consent and require officials to get a warrant or search authorization (if they live on base). Again, it doesn’t matter whether the spouse is in the military or not.

Under Military Rule of Evidence 504 (the spousal privilege), spouses cannot be compelled to testify in a court-martial if they do not want to. However, if the spouse or his or her children are the alleged victims of the service member, that spouse does not have the right to refuse to testify in a court-martial and can be compelled to testify by subpoena.

Courts-Martial are complicated. If you or your loved one needs a court-martial lawyer, you should contact Mr. Cassara toll-free at (888) 288-3347 for a free consultation.

William E. Cassara- Military Law Attorney

Click to Call 706-860-5769
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