Ocala, FL asked in Criminal Law and Military Law for Florida

Q: Art 31(b)

When a CID agent who is participating in an official law enforcement investigation receives incriminating evidence from a third party, should they be required to advise the suspect of their Article 31(b) rights before the agent receives the incriminating evidence?

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1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: No, in the situation you described, the CID agent would generally not be required to advise the suspect of their Article 31(b) rights before merely receiving incriminating evidence from a third party.

Article 31(b) of the UCMJ states:

"No person subject to this chapter may interrogate, or request any statement from, an accused or a person suspected of an offense without first informing him of the nature of the accusation and advising him that he does not have to make any statement regarding the offense of which he is accused or suspected and that any statement made by him may be used as evidence against him in a trial by court-martial."

The key aspects are that the rights advisement is required when the investigator is interrogating or requesting a statement from the suspect. Passively receiving evidence from another source does not itself trigger the Article 31(b) requirement.

However, if after receiving the incriminating evidence, the agent then decides to question the suspect about it, they would first need to advise the suspect of their rights under Article 31(b) before initiating that questioning.

Additionally, if there are indications that the third party was acting as an agent of the investigator to deliberately circumvent Article 31(b) requirements, that could potentially raise issues. But based solely on the information provided, it does not seem the rights advisement would be needed simply upon receipt of evidence from a third party.

As always, the specific facts of a case matter a great deal in determining legal requirements, so consulting with a military law attorney regarding particular situations is advisable.

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