Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Self-reporting and the Fifth Amendment

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces heard oral argument last week in United States v. Castillo. The case concerns, among other things, whether a member of the armed forces can be compelled to report that he or she has been arrested on civilian charges. Michael Doyle of McClatchy News Service has written an informative piece on the matter here. Under current rules, naval personnel need only report the charges on which they have been arrested, and not the underlying factual details. These reports cannot now be used against them unless naval officials find them out by independent means.

However the court rules, isn't it kind of icky for military personnel to have to put themselves on report with the military for offenses that are being or have been dealt with by civilian authorities? But, you might say, the military has a non-penal interest in such matters, and might decide that the member ought to be separated administratively. After all, frequent involvement with civilian authorities is a possible ground for administrative separation. Or the military might have a need to know from the standpoint of whether the individual was trustworthy enough to have a security clearance.

Is there some other way to vindicate these service interests that doesn't rely on military personnel to be the bearer of their own bad tidings? Why not turn the reporting telescope around by enacting a federal or uniform state law that requires civilian law enforcement authorities to notify the military automatically of civilian charges against military personnel?

As for Fireman Castillo, in the end she was not convicted in civilian court on the civilian charges the Navy says she should have self-reported to it.

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