The Military Rules of Evidence (MRE) is a set of important rules published by the Department of Defense. These rules govern the admissibility (or inadmissibility) of certain types of evidence in courts-martial and, like many other parts of the military code, have been subject to updates and revisions through the years.
These rules are vast, with 11 sections and over 53 pages in the latest document. If you are facing a court-martial, you can leave most of this to your attorney, but there are some key areas of these rules that are worth understanding. Court-martial cases can hinge on things like your ability to suppress illegally obtained statements or evidence or simply being able to obtain the medical and mental health records necessary to support your case. The rules additionally cover the court’s procedures surrounding issues like hearsay, character evidence, and bias. The rules also offer certain rights and protections to those facing a court-martial, such as preventing the government from introducing allegations of uncharged misconduct as evidence.
Note that the Military Rules of Evidence apply only to court-martials or cases where a service member is tried by a military court. Military tribunals—special courts that try defendants from enemy forces—operate under completely different rules.
Have a Great Military Attorney on Your Side
Military law has several key differences from civilian law. There are many aspects to it that can confuse a civilian attorney, let alone someone without any legal training. To achieve the most optimal results, it is ideal to contact an attorney who has deep experience and familiarity with military law specifically.
A military defense lawyer understands the rules of evidence applicable to your case under the Military Rules of Evidence (MRE) and the broader Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). While the MRE is largely based on the rules of evidence established for federal court, there are some notable changes specific to military situations. Many civilian attorneys are willing to offer services to military members, but because of these critical differences between the MRE and civilian law, it’s important to find a lawyer with military law experience when facing a court-martial.
A good military defense lawyer is up to date on any changes to the rules of evidence for both court-martials and federal court cases because federal rule changes can often affect the MRE. A good lawyer understands that both arms of our federal legal system are constantly evolving and knows how to adapt accordingly.
At Aaron Meyer Law, we have the experience and skills necessary to meet the challenge of a court-martial case, and we’re ready to put them to work for you. Contact us today to begin exploring your options and building a robust legal strategy.
Key Military Rules of Evidence
With 11 sections across 50+ pages, and many rules having sub-rules and provisions of their own, the MRE is difficult to summarize. Instead, it is important to note a few key rules that are often invoked in a court-martial. Contact us for help if you’re facing a court-martial and have concerns about other parts of the MRE.
- Military Rule of Evidence 311(d) mandates that your lawyer must make a motion to suppress illegally obtained evidence before a plea is entered. The prosecution then bears the burden of proving that the evidence in question is, in fact, legal.
- Military Rule of Evidence 403 allows (but does not require) the court to exclude evidence that is potentially prejudicial, misleading, or confusing to the jury, even if that evidence bears relevance to the case.
- Military Rule of Evidence 404(a) prohibits the admission of any evidence that attempts to use a person’s character (or a specific character trait) as proof that they committed a criminal act that aligns with that trait. It also sets forth provisions for the accused to offer their own evidence as to the character or character traits of an alleged victim; if such evidence is allowed into court, the prosecution may then attempt to refute it.
- Military Rule of Evidence 405 governs the methods that may be used to establish someone’s character in court when the judge finds it to be admissible at all. MRE 405 allows evidence of character to be presented through testimony about someone’s reputation or through specific instances of conduct (e.g., prior criminality).
- Military Rules of Evidence 601 and 602 provide a framework for validating the competence of witnesses. In general, this section of the MRE requires that witnesses be able to demonstrate relevant personal knowledge of whatever events and facts they are testifying about and prohibits testimony based on speculation or hearsay.
- Military Rule of Evidence 702 has to do with the admissibility of expert testimony. It requires that expert witnesses be qualified and that their testimony be based on sufficient facts and data that have been gleaned through reliable principles and methods. The well-regarded Daubert method is used to determine the admissibility of expert testimony in court-martial and military appellate courts.
- Military Rule of Evidence 801 defines hearsay and makes it generally inadmissible, subject to specific exceptions set forth in the remaining parts of MRE Section 8.
These rules work together in complex, interconnected ways to help ensure that all evidence and testimony presented in military court is reliable, relevant, and accurate. The skilled military law team at Aaron Meyer Law can help you formulate an aggressive legal strategy to use these rules to your advantage in a court-martial.
Aaron Meyer Law: Successfully Representing Service Members in California and Beyond
If you or a loved one are facing legal issues within the military justice system, you need someone who understands your situation. Assert your rights and protect your future with assistance from the experienced team at Aaron Meyer Law. With a deep understanding of the Military Rules of Evidence, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and the complexities of court-martial cases, we can provide the guidance, strategies, and representation you need to achieve a great outcome.
Contact Aaron Meyer Law today to schedule a no-pressure consultation and learn how we can help you overcome this challenge.