UCMJ Article 32 procedures in a military court martial are designed to give the accused due process rights, similar to a civilian grand jury or preliminary hearing.
Under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, a person has an express right to a Grand Jury indictment before they can be tried for a Federal felony offense. However, that Fifth Amendment right to a grand jury indictment does not apply to the Armed Forces. Under the UCMJ , military service members do have some due process rights before they can be brought to a felony level court-martial. Article 32 of the UCMJ is a primary due process protection afforded to soldiers facing felony level court martial charges. Under Article 32, UCMJ, before a soldier can be tried at a general courts-martial there must be a thorough and impartial investigation of the charges. This investigation is commonly referred to as the Article 32 Investigation. If handled properly, the Article 32 investigation can be a vital tool for lawyers defending courts-martial cases. A skilled defense lawyer can use the Article 32 Investigation to set up the defense for success at trial by poking holes in the Government's case and impeaching Government witnesses. In addition, defense lawyers can use the Article 32 to get the charges against their client dismissed or reduced.
The purpose of the Article 32
The main purpose of an Article 32 investigation is: 1) to determine whether or not the charges are supported by sufficient evidence; 2 ) to determine if the charges are in the proper form; 3) to determine if it is in the interest of justice and good order and discipline to send the case to a General courts-martial and; The Article 32 investigation is a means of discovery for the prosecution and defense. Typically, before an Article 32 investigation, the accused and his lawyer receive a copy of the investigative case file and witness statements. At the Article 32, the defense is entitled to all of the evidence that is submitted to the Investigating officer for his consideration. Furthermore, at the Article 32 investigation, the defense is permitted to call witnesses and cross-examine Government witnesses under oath. By the end of the Article 32, the defense should have a solid understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the Government's case.