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Do soldiers in a military investigation have procedural rights?

A recent military criminal investigation is questioning the conduct of several members of a National Guard unit that was deployed to Ethiopia.

The allegations involve whether members of the detachment had sex with prostitutes, even after receiving an express prohibition from their captain about using local prostitutes. The captain was concerned about projecting a positive image of America, as well as human trafficking issues in the region. 

The investigators found probable cause that nine members of the unit had sex with prostitutes. Unfortunately, some of the prostitutes might have been underage girls. To make matters even worse, some members may also have potentially compromised national security by allowing the prostitutes to enter areas where secret weapons and documents were also stored.

Although prostitution charges usually carry criminal penalties to both civilians and soldiers, there are differences in the procedures used by investigators in each arena. In this case, military investigators seized the soldiers’ cell phones. In the civilian context, a search and seizure might have required judicial approval and been more limited in scope. 

Our law firm focuses on military defense, and has represented military personnel who have been deployed overseas. Military investigations can have far-reaching consequences, and the military's investigators may attempt to gather evidence in ways that don’t abide by applicable federal laws and/or military regulations. For all of these reasons, anyone who is the subject of a military investigation should consult with an attorney. An attorney can work to protect a service member’s procedural rights and minimize any damage to his or her military career. 

Source: WSMV, “Military investigation shows TN soldiers had sex with prostitutes in overseas mission,” Jeremy Finley, Nov. 4, 2015

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