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What is an Article 32 preliminary hearing?

On Behalf of | May 17, 2023 | Military Law

The Military has a unique process for managing criminal cases. When a member of the Armed Forces is charged with a serious crime, that individual must undergo a process in military court.

In brief, a Brigade Level Commander orders an Article 32 preliminary hearing when the charges against the Armed Forces member are severe enough that a trial by general court-martial is likely.

The commander appoints a preliminary hearing officer (PHO) to conduct an Article 32 hearing, which consists non-testimonial evidence and examines witnesses.

Once the Article 32 hearing is complete, the PHO must submit a report to the commander who ordered the hearing. Upon review of the PHO’s report, the commander decides on what happens next.

Does the individual accused have rights?

Yes. The Service Member has a right to representation by appointed military defense counsel. They can also request a specific military defense attorney or hire a private civilian attorney at their expense.

There is always something to be gained by having the case heard at an Article 32 Preliminary Hearing. Often, it is a way to make an argument that even if there is probable cause an offense occurred, a General Court Martial is not the appropriate outcome. No one should waive their right to an Article 32 without talking to a trained Defense Counsel and understanding the benefits that can be gained by going and what could be given up by waiving this important right.