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  • Court-Martial Defense

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    What is a Court-Martial?

    A court-martial is a federal court convened by a Commanding Officer/General to adjudicate the alleged criminal misconduct of a military service member. A court-martial is the military’s version of a criminal trial, in which other members of the military render a finding on a service member’s guilt or innocence, and any ensuing punishment. Depending on the severity of the charges, a court-martial will take one of the following three forms:

    General Court-Martial

    General courts-martial are reserved for the most serious crimes including murder, sexual assault, and high-dollar larceny and/or fraud. Officer misconduct is also often adjudicated at a general court-martial to ensure dismissal is a potential punishment. A Commanding Officer/General may refer such charges to a general court-martial because this type of proceeding has no maximum jurisdictional limitations on punishment. The jury at a general court-martial can punish as much as the criminal statute allows—and many criminal statutes calculate duration of confinement in decades rather than in years. A pretrial Article 32 hearing is required before charges can be referred to a general court-martial.

    Special Court-Martial

    Special courts-martial usually handle criminal matters of a misdemeanor-type nature such as a drug offense, simple assault, orders violations, or unlawful absence. Punishment may not include confinement longer than one year. Though less grave than general courts-martial convictions, a special court-martial conviction will result in a criminal record for the military member and could have serious adverse effects on service member’s career, benefits, and future.

    Summary Court-Martial

    Summary courts-martial are generally uncontested administrative hearings, rarely offered unless the service member acknowledges misconduct. There is no judge or jury present at a summary court-martial; instead, a sole officer chosen by the Commanding Officer/General hears the matter and renders a decision on punishment. Outcomes can include confinement up to 30 days, but neither criminal conviction nor punitive discharge is permissible. Nonetheless, consequences of a summary court-martial decision can be serious, and a service member considering pleading guilty to one should seek a court-martial attorney.

    Contact MJA

    If you are involved in military court-martial proceedings, it is critical that you speak with an experienced court-martial attorney right away. Contact our court-martial lawyers now to learn more.