What is Article 31?
Military law follows a different code of law than civilian courts. In Article 31, Uniform Code of Military Justice (Section 831 of Title 10, United States Code), service members have a right against self-incrimination. They are to be informed of the alleged charges, or offenses, before they can be questioned.
What is Self-Incrimination?
Self-incrimination could happen if you answered questions by military police or investigators without knowing you were about to be accused of a crime. You could “incriminate” yourself unknowingly. To prevent this, military members may not compel a service person accused of a crime or suspected of a crime to answer any question.
Article 31 protects the accused by ensuring that charges or offenses are explained before questioning. Free military counsel is available during questioning and throughout arrest, investigation, hearings, and courts martial.
How is This Different From Civilian Law?
The military is required to advise its members early in the process of any situation that might lead to punishment. The rights of the accused are clearly explained at each step. On the other hand, civilians are not Mirandized unless they are arrested, and they do not get free legal services unless they can prove financial need.
How does Article 31 work?
Military personnel must have accusations explained to them before being asked for a statement or questions about the incident. The accused will be advised that a statement is not required, and counsel can be appointed free of charge throughout initial proceedings and through appeals. The accused will be made to understand that statements may be used in court-martial proceedings.