Military Crime Reporting: The Flawed System

John L. Calcagni IIIJohn L. Calcagni III
military crime

Military crime is back in the spotlight after the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Devin Patrick Kelley obtained a firearm even though he should’ve been banned. He committed a violent crime while serving in the military, and therefore shouldn’t have passed a background check. The military failed to provide the necessary information to stop this from happening. The military’s failure cost the lives of 26 people. Simple reporting could help avoid situations like this in the future. In the wake of this people want to know what the military crime reporting procedure is and how to improve it.

The Current Military Crime Reporting Procedure

Currently, the military must send information on any soldier that’s convicted of a crime that forces them to spend more than a year in prison. They must report this because according to federal law it’s illegal for anyone convicted of crimes like this to buy or own a gun. Anyone convicted of this crime including those convicted of military crimes must go into databases used by the National Instant Crime Background Check System (NICS). The FBI runs and maintains the NCIS. Gun shops must run all buyers through the NICS before selling them anything. If the buyer comes up flagged, they can’t buy a gun. This system stops countless criminals from buying guns every year.

The military must submit fingerprints for every convicted soldier to the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). This database provides information for background checks. If someone fails to send the fingerprints, no record exists in the NCIS. That criminal can purchase a gun because they won’t come up on a background check. Additionally, the military must submit any reports on the crimes and DNA. The law requires the reporting of statistics on military crimes to the FBI as well. These statistics help the FBI and others to understand crime patterns throughout the country.

The Findings of the Inspector General

The system only works if the military reports military crimes, and a study done by the Inspector General found a lack of reporting. Their research showed that around 30% of fingerprints or 300 actual sets of fingerprints didn’t get submitted from 2010 to 2012. Also, the military failed to provide the FBI with criminal history information in 334 cases. During the same period, the Department of Defense failed to send 282 DNA samples or 9% of those convicted of military crimes to the FBI. Another Inspector General study found that data from one reporting system wasn’t sent to the FBI for ten years. These numbers fail to meet an acceptable standard.

Ways to Improve the System

The military crime reporting system contains several flaws that need improvement. Oversight training and accountable seem like the areas that need the most improvement. Installing leadership at the field, regional, and highest level to ensure the reporting system improves would help. The military could invest in supporting software to make the reporting process easier. Improvements to checklists and training would ensure that reporting knows what they’re doing. Improved training would make the reporting process faster. Creating teams solely dedicated to overseeing the reporting process would help. These teams could contain staff that reports the military crimes and other members that review the reporting to ensure proper reporting.

What Should Someone Do If He or She Faces Military Criminal Charges?

The person needs to stay quiet first and foremost. Remember that the prosecutor can use anything you say against you in court. This includes speaking to friends and fellow soldiers. The military may try to use one of them, or even the person’s accuser to get information. They could set up a phone call with one of these people to pull information out of the person. A lawyer will make sure the person doesn’t incriminate themselves. If someone reads you, your article 31 rights make sure you speak to a lawyer before saying anything.

When you speak with a lawyer make sure he or she has experience with military crimes. The military court system differs from the civilian courts, and you need a lawyer that knows how to navigate it. Civilian lawyers won’t know how to advise you on what type of court makeup makes the most sense for your case Military trials move fast and you need a lawyer that knows how to handle it. A former JAG attorney usually works best, because they know the system well. Make sure you hire a skilled attorney with multiple levels of experience within the military. They know how the prosecution thinks and what tactic they could use. Never leave your fate in the hands of an attorney that doesn’t know the military court system. You could end up in military prison for something you didn’t do, or could have won with a former JAG attorney.