Military Courts-Martial Attorney

U.S. military members are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice no matter where they are around the world if they are on active duty.  In addition, in certain circumstances, reservists can also be subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It is a system of justice that has advantages and disadvantages for service members.  Because of the unique aspect of this system of justice, it is vital to understand the culture of the service almost as much as the law, in order to navigate this unique justice system.  Consequently, it is vital to have an advocate who understands both, as your career and record may depend on it!

If a service member ultimately faces a courts-martial, then it will be either a summary, special or general courts-martial:

  • A summary courts-martial is a type of courts-martial that the accused/defendant must agree to accept.  Only enlisted members may be tried in this type of courts-martial.  The military member is not entitled to a jury but is tried by one officer, who, depending on individual service regulations may or may not be a military attorney (JAG).  The U.S. Supreme Court in Middledorf v. Henry, 425 U.S. 25 (1976) held that there is no Sixth Amendment right to counsel in a summary court-martial proceedings, since a summary courts-martial is not a criminal proceeding as that term is meant in the Amendment. The type of punishment that can be imposed by this type of courts-martial depend on the rank of the enlisted accused/defendant if convicted of a charge.  A Special Courts-Martial is a type of courts-martial that can adjudicate up to 12 months in confinement, a bad-conduct discharge (enlisted members only), reduction of rank to E-1 (enlisted only) 2/3rd forfeiture of pay for up to 12 months, hard labor without confinement for three months, regardless of the amount of charges adjudicated in the case.  This type of courts-martial is considered a criminal conviction if an accused/defendant is found guilty of any offense or offenses.  The accused has the right to a jury of three officers on the jury as a minimum and can request up to 1/3rd enlisted members on the panel, none of which can be junior in rank to him or her.  The jury (or panel) can be larger than three members.  The accused/defendant can also ask to be tried by a military judge.

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  • A General Courts-Martial is a type of courts-martial that can adjudicate any penalty authorized under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for a charge and specification that an accused/defendant is convicted of, including death, if that punishment is authorized for the offenses the accused/defendant is convicted of.  An accused/defendant is entitled to a minimum of five military members are authorized, and if the accused is enlisted, he or she may request up to 1/3rd enlisted members.  Military law requires that an Article 32 hearing be conducted prior to the empaneling of a General Courts-Martial against an accused/defendant. An Article 32 hearing is typically conducted by an investigating officer who will review evidence, and make recommendations about the case to the convening authority, who is the decision maker in determining whether or not to have the matter proceed to a General Courts-Martial. The accused/defendant can also ask to be tried by a military judge.
  • A General Courts-Martial is a type of courts-martial that can adjudicate any penalty authorized under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for a charge and specification that an accused/defendant is convicted of, including death, if that punishment is authorized for the offenses the accused/defendant is convicted of.  An accused/defendant is entitled to a minimum of five military members are authorized, and if the accused is enlisted, he or she may request up to 1/3rd enlisted members.  Military law requires that an Article 32 hearing be conducted prior to the empaneling of a General Courts-Martial against an accused/defendant. An Article 32 hearing is typically conducted by an investigating officer who will review evidence, and make recommendations about the case to the convening authority, who is the decision maker in determining whether or not to have the matter proceed to a General Courts-Martial. The accused/defendant can also ask to be tried by a military judge.

Non-Judicial Proceedings under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice is also another procedure that military members can choose.  Like a summary courts-martial, the member must elect to proceed under Article 15, U.C.M.J.  Also, Article 15 is an administrative action and is not a criminal conviction under law if convicted of an offense under that process.  There is no military judge or jury but the decision maker determining your guilt or innocence is typically your military commander.  The rank of the commander and the rank of the military member determine what punishments can occur, If someone is found to be guilty of an offense in Article 15 proceedings.   An accused can lose rank (enlisted only at certain ranks), pay, be made to do hard labor, restriction to base or areas, face an admonishment or reprimand, as well as other punishments.

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