The Most Investigated Population in America

The United States Armed Forces is undoubtedly made up of the America’s best men and women.  These are individuals who maintained a clean criminal record up to the moment they enlisted; they have dedicated and committed themselves to a lifestyle of high standards and a life driven by strong values.  Accordingly, the crime rate among military personnel is lower than any U.S. city’s population.  A recent comparison of crime statistics revealed that felony-level crimes among military personnel were less than half of national rate for the general population. 

So, with such a well-behaved and law abiding population, military law enforcement agencies must be small, right?  Wrong!  With more than 5,000 agents, detectives, and investigators for an active-duty military force of 1.3 million troops, the men and women of the Armed forces have FIVE TIMES AS MANY investigators waiting to dig into their lives and scrutinize their activities… and that isn’t counting the thousands more military police patrolling military bases, ready and waiting to respond to a call or complaint!

Understanding Military Criminal Investigations

Military criminal investigations are formal criminal investigations, similar to those conducted by civilian law enforcement agencies at the local, state, and federal level.  These inquiries are aimed at uncovering misconduct by military personnel and others who work or live on military bases, with the goal of building a sufficient case to support a criminal prosecution in military or federal court.  The results of these investigations are reported to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC).  

Military law enforcement agencies have all the resources, specialties, and capabilities as their civilian counterparts, and wield just as much if not more legal authority to accomplish their tasks.  Digital forensic examiners and high-tech tools to dissect your phone and computers?  Military law enforcement agencies have them.  Wiretaps and warrants to do digital searches of your internet accounts and social media activity?   Military law enforcement does it every day.  From polygraphs to DNA, there is no capability that military law enforcement agencies lack.  

While each service is unique in some respects, all military law enforcement agencies have significant independence from military commanders and have broad discretion to take whatever action they deem necessary to pursue a case.  Contrary to popular belief, general officers and admirals lack the authority to direct a military law enforcement agent to back off or what to do.  In fact, military law enforcement can leverage the power of command authority to assist in their work.  They can stop a servicemember from departing active duty at the end (ETS) of their contract if they’re investigating a case that may go to a court-martial.  They regularly have commanders order servicemembers to report to the law enforcement office to be interviewed.  This combination of massive law enforcement resources and command authority make it extremely difficult for the average servicemember to undergo a military criminal investigation.

Military Investigation Agencies

Just as civilian law enforcement works within legal jurisdictions, criminal investigations in the armed forces are conducted within each branch of service, each with its own law enforcement agencies. These agencies are staffed with a mix of civilian and uniformed personnel filling a variety of jobs, all of whom specialize in various aspects of criminal investigation within the military context.  Within their respective branches, these agencies handle different types of offenses, ranging from misdemeanors to felonies to national security threats. 

Army CID (Criminal Investigation Command)

The Army CID is the largest military investigative agency, with over 3,000 total personnel.  CID investigates felony-level misconduct by Army personnel, focusing on serious crimes like fraud, sexual assault, drug trafficking, internet crimes, child-related crimes, and homicide.  Their approach is finely tuned to Army missions, bases, and personnel, with operations and offices in many countries and in forward combat zones.

Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS)

The best-known military law enforcement agency due to the television shows by the same name, NCIS is more civilianized and independent than CID or OSI.  NCIS conducts investigations for the Navy and Marine Corps, addressing a wide range of serious offenses. NCIS is well-resourced and highly trained, capable of investigating misconduct anywhere in the world including on Navy ships underway at sea.

Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI)

AFOSI or, more commonly just “OSI,” is responsible for all major criminal investigations within the Air Force. Like NCIS and CID, their work includes the full range of traditional felony-type crimes as well as some counterintelligence, counterterror, and protective service details.

Marine Corps Criminal Investigations Division (USMC CID)

The Marine Corps CID supplements NCIS in investigating misconduct and specifically handles investigations pertinent to Marine Corps personnel and assets. USMC CID works in tandem with NCIS but are focused on issues directly affecting Marine Corps operations and personnel.

Misdemeanor Investigations

While CID, NCIS, and OSI handle felony-level cases for the Armed Forces, each service has other detectives and investigators investigating other offenses such as domestic violence, drug use, minor assaults, larceny, and other common crimes.  In the Army this is handled by Military Police Investigations (MPI), while Security Forces (SF) Investigations does the same for the Air Force.  The Navy uses a mix of uniformed Master-at-Arms Sailors and Department of the Navy civilian police officers to investigate similar crimes specific to that branch.

Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS)

Even America’s smallest, best-behaved armed force still has its own fully staffed and capable law enforcement agency.  The Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) has 180 members spread out across all USCG locations.  CGIS not only investigates felony-level crimes like NCIS, CID, and OSI, it also handles the more common offenses that MPI, SF, and USMC CID detectives handle for other services.  If any member of the Coast Guard is suspected of criminal activity, a CGIS Agent will be working the case.

Legal Representation in Military Investigations

Each military branch follows its own protocols and procedures during investigations, with the overarching goal of ensuring justice and maintaining discipline within the ranks. Deep familiarity with these protocols and procedures is the key to effectively protecting yourself if you are under military criminal investigation. Once you know or believe that you are the target of a military criminal investigation, you must move quickly and proactively respond so that the investigation is fair and that it fully examines and documents the facts of your case.

Do Not Wait to Protect Your Rights and Future

Military Criminal Investigations can substantially impact your life and career and should be met with care and competent legal representation. At Mangan Law, we are well-versed in the protocols and procedures of Military Criminal Investigations, and we are dedicated to helping service men and women ensure their rights are protected.  We provide the comprehensive assistance and representation needed to effectively navigate the process and safeguard your rights, regardless of which investigative agency is involved.  Be sure to get the legal representation you deserve. Contact Mangan Law today for a free consultation.

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