Navigating Military Boards of Inquiry (BOI): A Defense Attorney’s Guide

In the realm of military justice, one can find themselves navigating the intricate and often perplexing process of Military Boards of Inquiry (BOI). Whether you’re a service member facing allegations or a fellow legal advocate seeking insights, this guide offers you a seasoned defense attorney’s perspective on the nuances of BOIs – from their significance to adeptly maneuvering this challenging terrain.

Raising the Flag on Iwo

The Crucial Role of Military Boards of Inquiry

1. Upholding Discipline

At the heart of Military BOIs lies the imperative task of maintaining discipline within the ranks. These boards serve as guardians of order and rigorously ensure adherence to military standards and regulations. But not every case is about righteously upholding discipline. Sometimes, a BOI is focused on making an example out of a military officer. So, when the conduct or performance of an officer comes into question, BOIs function as the employment hearing. The challenge is to safeguard a service member’s rights during the process.

2. Safeguarding Service Members’ Rights

BOIs are not punitive tribunals; they are investigative in nature. Their fundamental purpose is supposed to be to protect the rights of service members, ensuring that any actions taken are grounded in a fair and equitable evaluation of the facts. The process provides an avenue for service members to present their side of the story and guarantees due process. However, without an experienced defense attorney on your side, the government is usually focused on separating you, not protecting your rights.

3. Upholding the Honor of the Armed Forces

Central to military service is the integrity and honor of the armed forces. BOIs serve as sentinels guarding against allegations of misconduct or incompetence, approaching these matters in a transparent and objective manner. In doing so, they are supposed to preserve the reputation, morale, and cohesion of the military community. But often, officers accused of misconduct turn into the black sheep of their unit. They are not always given a fair shot to fight.

The Composition of a BOI

Typically, a Military Board of Inquiry comprises a panel of seasoned officers who maintain independence from the service member under scrutiny. A common configuration includes three to five board members, with a senior officer serving as the president, ensuring impartiality in the decision-making process. If a senior officer supervising the respondent is a member, a seasoned attorney will know how to challenge them, if necessary.

When is a Military Board of Inquiry Convened?

1. Performance and Conduct Issues

BOIs are set in motion when questions emerge about a service member’s performance, conduct, or behavior. Such concerns can encompass substandard job performance, breaches of military regulations, or allegations of misconduct.

The Navy and Marine Corps use SECNAVINST 1920.6d to guide the process. The Army uses Army Regulation 600-8-24 for its process. The US Air Force and US Space Force use Department of the Air Force Instruction 36-3211 for its BOIs.

2. Administrative Separation

In certain circumstances, a BOI may culminate in administrative separation from the military, particularly if the service member’s actions are deemed severe or repetitive. Administrative separation, while not technically punitive, can bear substantial consequences for a service member’s military career. Officers only get one characterization of service. So, irregardless of whether an officer serves two years or twenty years, the characterization of service will be for the entire military service.

The Intricacies of the Process

Understanding the labyrinthine process of a Military Board of Inquiry is paramount for those enmeshed within it. Let us dissect this intricate journey:

1. Commencement

The voyage starts with a report of misconduct. If the show cause authority directs a board, then the service member should start preparing a defense.

2. Investigative Prowess

A BOI embarks on a thorough investigation into the allegations, employing interviews, document reviews, and witness testimonies. It is at this juncture that the service member under scrutiny seizes the opportunity to present their narrative and furnish corroborative evidence in their defense.

3. Deliberation and Adjudication

Following the investigative legwork, the board members undertake a comprehensive assessment of the findings. They are supposed to meticulously scrutinize the evidence and proffer recommendations concerning the service member’s adherence to military standards. Their recommendations encompass actions or dispositions deemed appropriate.

4. Concluding Recommendations

The culmination of this intricate process finds the board forwarding its recommendations to the convening authority. It is the convening authority who renders the final verdict on the service member’s military future, which could encompass retention, separation, or other administrative remedies.

5. The Right to Appeal

Service members maintain the right to appeal the decision of a BOI, presenting their case to higher echelons of authority. This safeguard ensures the protection of their rights throughout the proceedings.

A Defense Attorney’s Counsel for Navigating a BOI

For service members confronted with the formidable prospect of a BOI, a steadfast ally in the form of an astute defense attorney is indispensable. These are the insights from a seasoned legal advocate to help you traverse the labyrinth:

1. Seek the Counsel of Legal Experts

Foremost, when you stand at the precipice of a BOI, enlist the guidance of legal experts well-versed in military law. A specialized military defense attorney possesses the acumen to navigate this terrain, safeguard your rights, and dispense expert advice.

2. Construct a Robust Defense

Collaborate closely with your legal counsel to build an unwavering defense. This involves the diligent collection of evidence, statements from fact and character witnesses, and a compendium of documents that buttress your case. The emphasis here lies in the meticulous preparation required to confront the allegations.

3. Empower Yourself with Knowledge

As a service member, fathom the BOI process and grasp your rights. Knowledge empowers you to make judicious decisions as you traverse this challenging journey. Being well-informed is the keystone of a vigorous defense.

4. Exemplify Professionalism

Amidst the maelstrom of a BOI, let professionalism be your guiding light. Comply with orders, maintain a poise and positive demeanor even in the face of adversity. Your conduct stands as a testament to your character, and it can be weighed during the deliberations.

5. Explore All Avenues

Should the outcome of the BOI leave you disquieted, explore the various avenues at your disposal, including the right to appeal. Strategize with your legal counsel on how to navigate your military career post-BOI.


In the arena of Military Boards of Inquiry, understanding their significance and effectively navigating the process is paramount. Seek the guidance of a seasoned military defense attorney, build a robust defense, and ensure your rights are upheld throughout the proceedings. By doing so, you can journey through a Military Board of Inquiry with the best prospects for an equitable and just outcome.