What Should I Do If I’m Being Investigated by the NCIS?

From drug possession and drunk driving to theft and sex crimes, committing a felony offense while serving in the U.S. Navy or Marine Corps may lead to an investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). The goal of this federal agency is to investigate criminal, terrorist, and international intelligence threats to land, sea, and online assets of those two specific branches of the military.

NCIS special agents generally investigate certain crimes that would result in more than one-year imprisonment upon conviction. Common types of crimes which prompt such investigations include homicide, sexual assault, child abuse (physical and sexual), aggravated assault, robbery or burglary, theft of government property, and even the death of a Navy or USMC service member outside of combat.

If you are suspected of military misconduct due to a felony criminal offense, the following are the proper steps to take in order to protect your rights and future:

  • Exercise your rights – Once you learn about the investigation, NCIS agents must disclose the reason for the criminal investigation and read you your rights under Article 31 or the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The two more important rights are the right to not provide a statement and the right to hire a lawyer. You must vocally invoke these two rights immediately. If you just stay quiet, this may be viewed as an attempt to obstruct the investigation, causing further legal trouble.
  • Do not say anything – While it may be tempting to “tell your side of the story,” it is in your best interest to stay silent for the time being. Anything you say or write down can and will be used against you. Although it may appear the special agents are on your side, their goal is to ensure you waive your rights and either admit to the alleged crime or say something false to disprove your denial.
  • Do not consent to a search – Based on the circumstances of the case, they may either ask for your consent or obtain a search authorization to conduct a search of your home, vehicle, or even the contents of your cell phone. Even if you have nothing to hide, do not consent and make NCIS get authorized for such a search.
  • Adhere to the command’s orders – During the investigation, you may receive a military protective order, directing you to avoid contacting certain individuals such as witnesses and the accusing party. Unfortunately, many service members may attempt to “settle the matter outside of court” by making contact despite the command’s orders. Disobeying such orders leads to further legal trouble, and may result in you being placed in pretrial confinement.
  • Speak with a lawyer – As soon as you learn about the investigation, you must speak with an experienced military defense attorney. Military attorneys cannot form an attorney/client relationship with you until you have been charged—they can provide general advice, but cannot get into the specifics of your case. A civilian attorney with military experience is not subject to these limitations. Your lawyer can investigate your case, collect and analyze evidence, and create a strong defense strategy to get your entire case dismissed or your charges/penalties reduced. Hiring a civilian attorney with military experience will allow you to start working on your case immediately.

If you are currently under investigation by the NCIS in San Diego, I, Jeff Meeks, am an experienced military defense lawyer who has handled thousands of military cases and hundreds of jury trials. I have more than 34 years of legal experience resolving criminal and administrative cases, including five years spent as a military judge. I can guide you through the complexities of the legal system while protecting your rights and freedom in the process.

For more information about NCIS investigations, contact my firm and schedule an appointment today.