Preferral Of charges
What happens when you’re criminally charged next on “Off The Record.”
- The Signal That You Are Charged
- Don’t Make Any Statements
- Get Counsel Immediately
- Find Out What You Are Being Charged With
- The Next Step: Article 32 Hearing
After you’ve been under investigation, your commander has probably called you into his office, sat you down, or had you at parade rest and handed you a charge sheet. You know it’s a charge sheet because it’s got your name on the top, your social security number, and it’s going to have the actual charges against you.
The Signal That You Are Charged
It’s going to say charge one, specification one, maybe specification two. And maybe 1 page, 2 page, 10 pages long. Once that happens that’s a direct signal to you that you’ve actually been criminally charged.
Don’t Make Any Statements
You’re not going to be asked to make any statements at that time, and if you do, don’t say anything. You’re going to have to sign for the Preferral of Charges. Don’t let this scare you.
Get Counsel Immediately
When you sign the charge sheet, it’s just signing saying you’ve actually received the charge sheet, nothing more. Once that’s done you’ve got to take this case extraordinarily seriously because a series of events has been put in motion that you might not even understand yet. If you don’t have counsel yet, you need to get counsel immediately.
Find Out What You Are Being Charged With
You’re going to be detailed free military attorney from the trial defense service, the area defense counsel office, or the DSO, the Defense Service Office in the military. You need to go speak with them immediately even if they haven’t been detailed to a case yet. Because you need to find out exactly what you’re accused of, what the charges mean, what the discovery looks like that’s against you.
After you have the charges, all of the discovery is gonna be served on your way. Discovery is just a fancy word for the evidence against you. All of the discovery rights are not initially triggered at what’s called the Preferral of Charges. You get some of the initial discovery, but it’s our first opportunity, especially if you haven’t had a lawyer involved from the time you were accused, to look at the actual charges against you and what evidence the government has.
We can take a look at the discovery, read the witness statements, read the OSI, or the CID reports, read the NCIS reports, and get a real understanding of is the government’s case against you strong, is it weak, and start putting together the defense strategy.
The Next Step: Article 32 Hearing
The next part is we’re going to have to prepare for what’s called the Article 32 hearing.
We’ll talk about exactly what the Article 32 hearing is and importantly what it isn’t in another episode of “On The Record.” But it’s now, at this very stage that we start working, you can not wait. You need to start doing an elements checklist to see does the government or can the government actually prove the elements of the case against you.
It’s a simple matter of grabbing the bench book, or grabbing the law, or the elements of each offense, going through the evidence and seeing can the government actually meets its burden early on. This is something that should happen immediately and not later on down the road.
Now we know the names of all the witnesses that may be against you or at least most of them. We can find them in the report or read them in the OSI or the CID file. It’s now that we need to start interviewing them, getting statements from them, determining if OSI or NCIS or CID, if what they say happened is actually what these witnesses said.
Because what we often find is the witnesses say one thing and something very different is inside of the report. So these are the initial stages of the Preferral of Charges. Essentially it means you have been criminally charged. You’ve got the charges right there. You know exactly what they are. You will get free counsel. You have the option of getting civilian counsel. But this is the stage if you haven’t done so already, we need to start absolutely working on your case because the next step is the Article 32 hearing.