Titling. Does that word mean anything to you? For me, at first, it didn’t, but it is a big part of the military justice system.

Many in the public arena aren’t aware of titling and have no knowledge of its current meaning or use. Heck, in the four years I served in the Marine Corps I never heard the word used even once. Today, though, titling continues to be a major concern for many current and former servicemembers. Some of them, who, having never been charged — let alone convicted — of a crime suffer life-altering ramifications because of titling. Being titled can (and does) inhibit honorably discharged servicemembers from getting approved for professional licenses, security clearances, gun ownership, concealed carry permits, and even college admission. Those Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines whom this policy affects often suffer years — some even a lifetime — of hurt, depression, anger, and anxiety as a result of their “title.”

What is titling? Simply stated, “Titling is the decision to place the name of a person in the ‘subject’ block of a CID report of investigation (ROI).”

This simply means if it is suspected that you committed a criminal offense and you are named the “subject” of an investigation, then you’ll be titled. The following passage describes the use of and proof required for titling someone:

“Unlike a criminal conviction, which requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt, to title someone only requires existence of credible information that a person committed a criminal offense. Legally, this is a very low standard, far below the standard required at trial by a court of law. Titling is not a legal or judicial decision, it is an operation[al] procedure used by CID.”

The DoD Instruction regarding “titling” was amended to its current standard on May 14, 1992. Prior to that, investigators were required to show probable cause before they could title someone. After the 1992 amendment, the proof required to title someone dropped to “credible information,” a far lower standard of proof. Credible information is, “Information disclosed or obtained by a criminal investigator that, considering the source and nature of the information and the totality of the circumstances, is sufficiently believable to lead a trained criminal investigator to presume that the fact or facts in question are true.”

The Credible Information Standard

Think of the “credible information” standard in this way: 

A fellow servicemember contacts military investigators and accuses you of adultery (a chargeable military offense). During his accusation to investigators, he claims he saw you leaving a hotel room late Saturday night with a female that he knows for a fact wasn’t your spouse. An investigation is initiated and you are titled as the subject in an adultery investigation. The investigation reveals that you were actually out on a date with your spouse at the time of the incident, but your brother, who had come into town to visit for the weekend, had been out with a local girl and the two of them had been spotted leaving a hotel room. You show the investigator the restaurant and movie receipts from your date night with your wife and your wife confirms you were together all night. The investigators then determine it was a case of mistaken identity as it was actually your brother who had been seen at the hotel and you are fully cleared and obviously never charged with a crime.