Absolutely NOT!! This is a form of illegal search and seizure and a violation of the Soldier’s constitutional rights. Unless the items were lawfully seized as part of an investigation, the command cannot take a Soldier’s personal belongings as a form of punishment. They can order the Soldier not to use personal items, but they are prohibited from confiscating personal items as punishment.
For example: Soldier repeatedly late for formation due to staying up late playing video games. The command can order the Soldier not to use the video system from 2200 to 0800. A violation of the this order can be punished under UCMJ for failure to obey an order. However, the command cannot take the video system. (This order should be in writing in the form of a counseling statement.)
Same as when a Soldier loses their driving privileges on post for a DUI. The installation can bar them from driving on post but cannot impound their vehicle.
If this has occurred, the Soldier’s course of action can be to approach the servicing legal office. Many times all it takes is a call from the Trial Counsel or the NCOIC to the 1SG. If that does not work or is not an option, then the Soldier can go to the IG or Legal Assistance office.
This issue repeatedly comes up in the barracks. For some reason, commands think that a Soldier living in the barracks have no personal rights. What I have always put out to commanders and leaders in my legal briefings is that before they take action against a Soldier in the barracks, apply that same action to their own living scenario. Would it be legal for someone to take the same action against them in their on-base or off-base housing. If they don’t think it would be, then it most likely is not legal for them to do it to a Soldier in the barracks. Anytime a command considers confiscating/securing a Soldier’s personal belongings, they need to consult their servicing legal office.
NOTE FROM TOP: ECK as always you continue to educate/mentor myself and others with the information you provide. ECK is one of our SME’s Please Note: “ECK is not an attorney. The opinions expressed are my own and are not to be in anyway interpreted or inferred as legal advice.”
I would strongly encourage leaders to coordinate legal actions with the JAG to make sure their actions are correct.
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