The Article 32 Hearing
If you’ve been charged with sexual assault or an equally serious offense, you’re probably facing a general court-martial. Article 32 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) requires a preliminary hearing, known as the Article 32 hearing, before a general court martial can proceed. It also guarantees several important rights for the accused.
In this post, we’ll look at the Article 32 hearing, and in the next post we’ll look more closely at the rights of the accused guaranteed by Article 32.
Participants and Process
The Article 32 hearing is attended by:
▪ the preliminary hearing officer (PHO) in charge of investigating the allegations and making sure the charges are appropriate
▪ the accused
▪ the accused’s attorney
▪ the attorney prosecuting the case on behalf of the U.S. military
Except in very special circumstances, the hearing is open to the media and the public.
The PHO will likely choose to call witnesses for examination. These may be questioned under direct examination by the attorney for the U.S., and under cross-examination by the attorney for the defendant. The defense is also able to call its witnesses.
After the hearing, the PHO will produce a report stating whether there is reasonable ground to believe the accused committed the charged offense, and recommending that the case either proceed to the general court martial, be remanded to another court, or be dismissed. You and your attorney will receive a copy of this report.
The preliminary hearing officer (PHO)—usually a judge advocate—is supposed to be an impartial investigator with no prior knowledge of the case. In reality, it often happens that the PHO works in the same office as the military prosecutor and the judge advocate who preferred the charges. A PHO should be disqualified if they:
▪ played a role in assembling the case against you;
▪ previously formed or expressed an opinion about the case;
▪ served as a judge advocate on the case; or
▪ are not impartial about the case.
In addition to looking closely at any potentially disqualifying conflicts, your attorney will also want to make sure that the PHO is either equal to or senior in rank to the lawyers assigned to the case.
If you’re facing an Article 32 hearing, the experienced military defense attorneys at Capovilla & Williams can help. Call them at (404) 496-7974.