Understanding Your Article 31 Rights

As the “military equivalent” of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, service members have to be aware of their Article 31 rights, especially if they’re put in a situation where military authorities want to question them. 

UCMJ Article 31 Rights protects military personnel from self-incrimination during investigations or legal proceedings. Similar to civilians’ Miranda rights, service members have the right to consult with legal counsel before being questioned or interrogated under Article 31. This protection also extends to service members worldwide, regardless of where they’re stationed. Even during non-judicial punishment proceedings, known as Article 15, these rights remain.

Learn more about the rights’ impacts on the outcome of any interaction with authorities and how it can protect your rights as a service member. 

Importance of Article 31 Rights

Article 31 of the Rights protects your privilege against self-incrimination during interrogations. A guarantee that you can’t be forced to give out potentially incriminating evidence against yourself.

In protecting your right to remain silent and not testify against your interests, Article 31 Rights can help guarantee fairness in legal proceedings. Without these, you might feel pressured to confess to crimes you didn’t commit, leading to unjust outcomes. These rights also help level the playing field between you and law enforcement to have you treated fairly and respectfully throughout the legal process.

Protections Offered by Article 31

When faced with questioning by law enforcement, these rights grant you the privilege of remaining silent to avoid potentially incriminating yourself. This protection prevents any coerced statements or confessions from being used against you in court. Becoming a guarantee that any statements made in violation of these protections will be deemed inadmissible as evidence. 

Waiving Article 31 Rights

By waiving these rights, you’re essentially giving up certain protections that are in place to protect your interests during questioning by authorities. Here are the consequences of waiving Article 31 Rights:

  1. Any statements you make can be used against you in a legal proceeding. This means that if you provide self-incriminating information during questioning without the protection of these rights, it can be used as evidence in court.
  2. You may inadvertently limit your options for legal defense strategies. These rights are made to have you treated fairly during questioning and that any information obtained is done so in a lawful manner. Without these protections, you may find yourself at a disadvantage when dealing with the legal system.

How to Invoke Article 31 Rights

To invoke your Article 31 Rights, simply inform the authorities that you wish to remain silent and request to speak with an attorney present. Assert these rights clearly and confidently. If you’re ever in a situation where law enforcement is questioning you, remember that you have the right to stay silent and the right to have legal representation.

When asserting your Article 31 Rights, use clear and direct language. You can say something like, ‘I am invoking my right to remain silent and would like to speak with an attorney before answering any questions.’ Clearly state your intentions to protect yourself and have your rights respected.

Examples of Article 31 in Action

If you’re stopped by the police for questioning regarding a crime, you can calmly state, ‘I choose to remain silent and would like to speak with a lawyer.’ By asserting your rights clearly and confidently, you signal to law enforcement that you’re aware of your protections under Article 31.

In another scenario, if you’re being interrogated by the police without access to legal counsel, you can choose to stay silent or answer only basic identifying questions until your attorney arrives. This action prevents you from inadvertently providing self-incriminating information or being coerced into making statements that could be used against you later.


Knowing and exercising your Article 31 rights can protect you during any legal proceedings. You invoke these rights by remaining silent and any statements you make are voluntary. Waiving these rights can have serious backlash, so it’s important to know how to assert them when needed. 

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