UCMJ investigations are not conducted by neutral agents looking for the truth. They are conducted by military investigators out to prove your guilt and Bilecki knows how to counter them at every stage of the process.
How to Know If You’re Under Investigation And What To Do
If you are reading this right now, there is a better than average chance that you as a military service member or a military service member you love is under criminal investigation. We don’t have a ton of traffic that comes here for leisurely reading, but if that’s you then go check out our base location pages because they are some top notch reading. Right now, let’s assume you are under investigation and get right to it.
Because if you are under investigation by the military justice system then you need to hire a lawyer now. Not later, not when you are charged, not when it’s time for a court martial, but right now. If you don’t hire us, that’s fine, but please hire someone because when you are under investigation by the military, a war you didn’t ask for is coming for your career, retirement, or even your freedom.
How Do I Know If I Am Under Investigation?
Once again, something brought you here and it likely wasn’t a sense of paranoia. If you have been called into any criminal investigative agency like Criminal Investigation Division (CID), Office of Special Investigation (OSI), Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), or others as a suspect, you are under investigation.
If you have been read your Article 31b rights under the UCMJ, you are under investigation. If you have been given a military protective order, you are going to be under investigation. It might even be explicit and beyond a doubt because the military told you that you are under investigation.
What is important for you to know right now if you are under investigation is that military investigators are working this very minute to prove your guilt. In a perfect world, justice would be blind, and the investigators would simply be chasing the truth.
However, you know the military justice system is not that perfect world. These military investigators are the type of guys who binge watch every episode of NCIS on a first date and expect a kiss in return. They are obsessed with what they do. They want everyone to know it, and right now, they are obsessed with your guilt and your guilt alone.
What Is Happening While I’m Under Investigation?
The way the military investigative system works is that they start an investigation of an individual as a target. Unfortunately, that target is you right now. That is the important distinction you need to understand. They are not investigating the crime, they are investigating you, looking for proof that you did it. It’s not a case of “who did it”, it’s “we know who did it and how can we prove it.”
A classic example would be a sexual assault case. The victim says you assaulted her in the barracks while she was drunk and proving that true now becomes their mission. They don’t want to know if she actually was drunk or if the two of you had completely consensual sex. They want to prove that she was too drunk to consent. It is confirmation bias at its worst and they are going to begin a three ring investigation looking for evidence to that end. It’s not fair to you, the service member, and as long as the military justice system has a body to prosecute, the military investigators consider their job done. Now let’s talk about the three ring investigation process.
The First Ring Investigation
This is the crime scene and it is the first and center ring. Where did it happen? Who were you with? What were the facts of the day? Let’s use the barracks room as an example for where a sexual assault alleged occurred. They are going to get access to the barracks room and when they get there, they have a singular focus of finding evidence that proves your guilt.
They have no interest in what is called exculpatory evidence. That is evidence that would prove your innocence. If they look at cctv footage of the hallway of the barracks room and the two of you are walking together holding hands and looking perfectly sober, they won’t secure that footage. If they talk to a Soldier who was in the dayroom and said, “she looked a little drunk to me” they will ensure they take a sworn statement from him or her and write in their report, “eyewitness testimony verified that Victim was highly intoxicated.”
We know that sounds like an exaggeration, but we have seen it and that’s how confirmation bias works. The mind will willingly ignore facts that may produce an emotionally unsatisfying result. Make no mistake about it, military investigators are emotionally invested in proving your guilt. They will talk to anyone you were with that night and rather than asking open ended questions, they will ask leading questions.
An open ended question would be, “Did you see the alleged victim drinking on the night of ….” Instead, they’ll ask something like “We know you and the victim were drinking heavily before she was raped, tell us how long you two were drinking.” When the witness gives a time, or even responds in the affirmative, it’s used against to you to show that the alleged victim was overly intoxicated and unable to consent.
The reality is that while we can malign these investigator’s intent, they are damn good at what they do, and it is scary. They are not rookies, and the majority are very experienced with almost no limitations on the tools at their disposal. What’s worse is that with this first ring, they are just getting started.
The Second Ring Investigation
This is what we call the forensic evidence ring. While there are many avenues law enforcement can pursue, they all want the holy grail of forensic evidence and that is your phone. Your phone is a literal treasure trove of data that they intend to cherry pick to prove your guilt.
Now, let us stop and clarify here, don’t drop your phone in a vat of acid. Doing so could be a crime and there may very well be exculpatory evidence on that can be used in your favor – so long as law enforcement doesn’t get your phone first. Besides, dissolving your phone in a vat of hydrofluoric acid Walter White style or “losing it on a deep sea fishing trip in the Molokai channel” won’t do any good.
As far as military investigators are concerned, they’ll go even harder for the data in other ways and then the prosecutors will tack on an Obstruction of Justice charge. It will also give investigators more confirmation bias regarding your guilt.
The above disclaimer is important, because what we are about to tell you is going to scare the living daylights out of you. Our phones have more data about us than we realize. There is the obvious which is contact data, GPS data, text and call history. However, because it connects to the internet, it has your entire internet history likely linked up in some sort of account. This means they’ll know everything from who you called on the day of to all the porn you may have looked at the day before. They can get it all and it is important to know that they will take it all.
At first, they’ll tell you that they just want to look at your phone for some narrowly targeted purpose. Maybe they say they just want to see the texts between you and the alleged victim that night. Because you know there is nothing incriminating, you hand it over. That’s when they plug it up to a program like Cellebrite and do a complete a digital forensic examination, commonly called a forensic dump. Once they do, they’ve got it all, even what you thought was deleted. They’ll use that information to seize any other internet connected device you have right down to the new PS5 you worked so hard to get. While the forensic information they collect often does plenty of damage to your case, they’ll also use that info to move on into the third ring of investigation. Oh, and you’ll never get your phone or PS5 back. Ever.
The Third Ring Investigation
The third ring of investigation is your past and they are about to search every day of your life with confirmation bias looking for evidence that you are the type of terrible human being who would do such a thing. They won’t be looking at your Purple Heart, Bronze Star, or Combat Action Badge. They don’t care about your gallantry in combat and what you did for this great nation. They are looking to prove you are a bad person and your reputation will be destroyed in the process.
They have no shame in how they approach these investigations. In a case like sexual assault, they will talk to your wife, girlfriend, ex-girlfriend, ex-wife, mother, father, and anyone else they can think of. If they can find the last person you hooked up with on Tinder, they will talk to them too. Then, just by the questions they ask, if those people didn’t think you were a bad person to start with, they will start to believe it now. If they can get an ex-girlfriend to make another allegation against you in the process, they will take that too.
This is how an initial false allegation for sexual assault turns into a three-victim case at trial. Again, their objective from the first ring to the third ring is not to find truth. Their objective is to prove you guilty. They have no shame in how they approach these investigations. In a case like sexual assault, they will talk to your wife, girlfriend, ex-girlfriend, ex-wife, mother, father, and anyone else they can think of. If they can find the last person you hooked up with on Tinder, they will talk to them too. Then, just by the questions they ask, if those people didn’t think you were a bad person to start with, they will start to believe it now.
If they can get an ex-girlfriend to make another allegation against you in the process, they will take that too. This is how an initial false allegation for sexual assault turns into a three-victim case at trial. Again, their objective from the first ring to the third ring is not to find truth. Their objective is to prove you guilty.
Years of Experience
How Long Does the Investigation Process Take
If a case is fairly straightforward and low profile, the investigation can wrap up as soon as 90 days or so. If the case requires more forensic work such as with sexual assault or some type of financial fraud charge, it easily take up to a year to wrap. This is problematic for you as the accused for a couple of reasons. One, it frustrates the hell out of you that things are not moving faster. You are FLAG’d, on legal hold and you feel like your entire life is in limbo while you wait for them to reveal what they found out. The other problem is that this can lull you into a false sense of security.
When you don’t hear anything back during a drawn out investigation, you are almost led into thinking that they have forgotten about you. Well, they have not. Law enforcement is now working with the JAG and the JAG is now telling investigators what else they need to get a conviction. So, the investigators go out to get it. Ultimately, the command gets the decision on whether or not to prosecute. However, they do so in consultation with the JAG. Then, finally if the case is weak and they don’t want to pursue court martial, you’d think they’d wrap it up and let you move on. Nope, that’s when they decided to use NJP or other adverse administrative action to scare you into accepting what their investigation could not prove in a forum in which you have little recourse. The administrative separation is the final gut punch the military will give you to send you packing, with a less than honorable discharge. This is how false allegations ruin careers, even if they don’t go to trial. It’s not right, it’s not fair, but you have to fight back!
Why You Need To Hire A Lawyer Now If You Are Under Investigation
It’s been our experience that some service members consider hiring a court martial lawyer when they first find out they are under investigation but hold off as the process draws out. Then, when the charge sheet drops, they freak out and reach out to us in a panic.
They didn’t realize that over the past 6 to 12 months, the military investigators were going through all three rings of the investigation to build a damning case against them. Now, you’re just trying to get your head in the game while the entire weight of the military justice system has spent the past year practicing for this very moment.
So you default to a JAG defense attorney at the Trial Defense Service or Defense Service Office who is just looking at your case for the first time. Think about it like a football team that has spent the entire off season training, practicing, and pushing their bodies for the sole purpose of winning.
Then, you get a rookie quarterback and team that has not practiced a single day of the off-season and the game is next week. That’s how the military justice system works and that’s why their conviction rates are off the charts. If you want to compete with the military justice system, you have to have your head in the game for as long as they do. So, let’s talk about what we do when we take a case that is under investigation.
We Meet The Military Investigators Head On In Every Ring
Think back to the three rings and that’s where the fight now rests. We have two primary goals. The first is to stop you from getting charged to begin with. Remember, they are not looking for a reason to exonerate you. They are looking for evidence of guilt. We take the three rings and start looking for proof that you are innocent or that the full story is not being told by the investigators. If we are involved right away, we can have a say in the investigation to an extent. We can send your phone to a forensic examiner before they get it so that they cannot cherry pick the data and exculpatory evidence is preserved. We can ensure that you don’t go into a CID, OSI or NCIS interview and get absolutely destroyed. We can ensure you don’t fall victim to pre-text phone calls and text messages. We can interview witnesses and even prep your wife and loved ones so that they don’t accidentally help convict you during the third ring of investigation.
Second, if we can’t stop you from getting charged then we prepare, prepare, prepare. Except now, we have been on the case for as long as the investigators and we get to meet them with equal conditioning and prep time. We have also made sure you didn’t fall for many of the pitfalls that other service members do. This is important because the military justice system isn’t a level playing field. This is their turf and they know it. However, now we are ready to give them one thing they didn’t want and that is a fight. We will fight like hell and meet them at every turn.
Finally, Google is great and it may be how you find us today, but Google is not sufficient when your life is on the line. You are going to have someone to call and get legit answers and individualized advice along the way. We’re going to walk through this process with you and see it through to the end. You may think a JAG defense attorney is sufficient and we know some good ones. But we are also going to tell you that it is a crap shoot if you get one that cares more about your career than they do their own. That’s the military for you and you know this to be true. If you are under investigation, don’t wait until you are facing prison and a dishonorable discharge to get serious about fighting for you and your family.
Get serious now, because if the military is investigating, they are serious about finding you guilty. Though they have no shame in how they get there, the truth is that they are good at what they do. We’re better! Most importantly, we are ready to meet them on their field, but we are not going to play their game. We are going to fight, and we are going to win. Reach out to us now and get us into the fight!