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Updates you need to know about the UCMJ manual for courts martial

On May 20, 2016, President Obama amended the Manual for Courts-Martial. The last time the MCM was revisited and updated was in 2012. There are a number of ways these amendments are significant but we'll be focusing on the two changes in this article.

The first change

One crucial change to the MCM is to the rule stating that separate evidence is required to verify "the essential facts admitted to justify sufficiently an inference of their truth." Mil. R. Evid. 304(c)(1) (2015). The new rule says "independent evidence, either direct or circumstantial, [be] admitted into evidence that would tend to establish the trustworthiness of the admission or confession." Mil. R. Evid. 304(c)(1) (2016). Previously, prosecutors were required to have evidence that confirmed the accuracy of a statement or confession. With this new rule, the prosecutor now only needs evidence that verifies the trustworthiness of a statement or confession.

A second change

The second rule that was changed previously said that "evidence obtained as a result of an unlawful search or seizure made by a person acting in a governmental capacity is inadmissible against the accused" if the accused makes an objection and has an adequate privacy interest. Mil. R. Evid. 311(a) (2015).

The updated rule has a new demand that says "exclusion of the evidence results in appreciable deterrence of future unlawful searches or seizures and the benefits of such deterrence outweigh the costs to the justice system." Mil. R. Evid. 311(a)(3) (2016). This rule change gives a military judge an incredible amount of discretion in admitting unlawfully seized evidence in a case.

These recent updates, along with several others, have given military prosecutors more power in courts-martial. If you're being court-martialed or under investigation, contact The Law Office of David P. Sheldon right away. From offices in Washington, D.C., the firm represents U.S. service members in UCMJ matters around the world.

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