What Are the Military Rules of Evidence?

Even for those outside the military, the term “court-martial” may bring to mind severe consequences for military misconduct. If you are in the military, however, you have insight into the potential consequences of being court-martialed. Facing the military justice system can be extremely overwhelming, regardless of whether you have done anything wrong. Answering what are the military rules of evidence can help you gain greater insight into your military justice case.

Important Military Justice Terms

While you may be familiar with the court-martial system, the UCMJ, and how charges are “preferred,” it is helpful to have a basic understanding of terms before delving deeper. A few key terms to be familiar with are:

  • Courts-martial: A type of judicial body that decides if an armed services member has broken military law.
  • Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ): The codified procedures and laws that apply to those in service of the U.S. military. While military members are obligated to follow many of the same laws as regular civilians, they also have additional regulations to which they agree to submit.
  • Military Rules of Evidence (MRE): Published by the U.S. federal government, these rules give guidelines on types of evidence that are allowed or prohibited, such as hearsay, in court-martial. These rules are found within the Manual for Courts-Martial, along with the Rules for Courts-Martial.

What Is Included in the Military Rules of Evidence?

The Military Rules of Evidence are both extensive and complicated. There are over 11 sections, ranging from rules about writings, recordings, and photographs, to rules about search and seizure and self-incrimination. The document is over 50 pages in length, and a number of the rules have sub-sections that go into further depth.

While it is possible to access the updated Military Rules of Evidence, it can be difficult to understand their full implications without professional legal help. They are also continually being revised and updated, similar to other legal codes.

Where Are the Military Rules of Evidence Encoded?

The Military Rules of Evidence are contained in various books and publications, but the primary location is in Part III of the Manual for Courts-Martial. Most physical copies of the Manual for Courts-Martial are intended for legal professionals with an obligation to understand the laws at a deeper level. The most recent manual is available online, however, through the Joint Service Committee’s website, and accessible to you.

When Are the Military Rules of Evidence Applied?

Military Rules of Evidence come into play during the trial of an individual who is in service of the U.S. military and is being charged with violating a law or a term of their service. Courts-martial are not used for every single case; however, minor offenses are often dealt with by non-judicial punishment (NJP). It is far more likely to use MRE in serious cases, such as felony cases. Breaches of duty are often NJP cases, such as sleeping on watch.

Sections of Military Rules of Evidence

There are currently 11 sections of the MRE section of the manual. These include everything from rules dealing with hearsay to those handling search and seizure. The current sections are as follows:

  1. General Provisions
  2. Judicial Notice
  3. Exclusionary Rules and Related Matters Concerning Self-Incrimination, Search and Seizure, and Eyewitness Identification
  4. Relevancy and Its Limits
  5. Privileges
  6. Witnesses
  7. Opinions and Expert Testimony
  8. Hearsay
  9. Authentication and Identification
  10. Contents of Writings, Recordings, and Photographs
  11. Miscellaneous Rules

Within each section, there are multiple rules, but you can tell by the rule number which category it falls into. For example, we know that Rule 707 deals with opinions and expert testimony, as it falls under the 7 section. Upon looking it up, we find that it specifically handles polygraph examinations. Similarly, if a rule is in the 500’s, we know it will deal with privileges, such as communication to clergy or marital privilege.


Q: What Is MRE Rule 613?

A: All MRE 600 rules deal with rules for witnesses. In the case of MRE Rule 613, guidelines are established for bringing prior inconsistent statements to the court. One stipulation of rule 613 is that the inconsistent statement should pertain directly to the case, not simply be used as a way to undermine the defendant’s character or call into question their statements generally.

Q: What Is Article 15 in the Uniform Code of Military Justice?

A: Article 15 allows for non-judicial punishment and also gives military leaders a way to punish subordinates and enforce rules, such as showing up punctually or staying awake on duty, in a timely and less consequential manner. Article 15s are not as serious as cases that go to court-martial, but can still create a bad record and even lead to a less than honorable discharge, particularly if there are repeat offenses.

Q: What Is Article 13 in the Uniform Code of Military Justice?

A: This article deals with the rights of the defendant in the pretrial period. While it is acceptable to confine the defendant to ensure that they do not flee and will be present for their court proceedings, it is not acceptable to use confinement or anything else as a form of punishment before the trial hands down a verdict. While it is always important to preserve dignity and not presume guilt, it is more important in the military, where honor and respect are prized highly.

Q: What Is the 801 Military Rule of Evidence?

A: Rule 801 of the MRE section deals with hearsay. It generally demands that witnesses directly bring their accusations to the court and allow themselves to be cross-examined. Evidence should not be a statement that is presented as evidence that is coming from someone other than the person declaring the evidence. There are, however, exceptions to the rule on hearsay outlined in later rules.

Criminal & Military Defense Attorney – Aaron Meyer Law

The military holds service members to high standards and does not tolerate violations of the laws and codes pertaining to the military. While even a regular civil court case can harshly penalize a defendant if convicted, in the military, it is even more important to have proper legal representation. This is because conviction can ruin your military career and the reputation you have worked hard to build.

Partnering with a seasoned lawyer can help you navigate the entirety of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including the Military Rules of Evidence. It can also give you peace of mind to know you are doing your utmost to keep the respect of your leaders and subordinates. If you want an advocate who can fight for you, reach out to our team at Aaron Meyer Law today.

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