Under  Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), there are provisions for three different types of courts-martial: summary, special, and general. All are legal proceedings for members of the military, similar to civilian court trials, and each type has a different make up and handles different types and severity of crimes and punishments.

If you are a military member facing a court-martial, you are entitled to be defended by a court-martial defense lawyer who can:

  • Advise you on your rights
  • File motions on your behalf
  • Defend you at trial.

If a military defense lawyer has also been appointed, that lawyer will remain on the case as co-counsel.

What Are the Three Types of Courts-Martial?

Of the three types of courts-martial, the summary is for administrative offenses that are the least serious; the special is similar to misdemeanor offenses; and the general is for the most severe charges and is similar to felony offenses in civilian court. The following is a breakdown of what is involved with each type:

Summary Court-Martial

A summary court-martial is for enlisted personnel facing less serious offenses. These are enhanced administrative hearings and will not result in a federal criminal conviction.  Summary courts-martial …

  • Consists of one commissioned officer who hears the case and serves as judge and jury.
  • Provide accused individuals with the right to call and cross-examine witnesses, produce evidence, and testify or remain silent.
  • Do not provide a free military attorney for the accused, but allow hiring private attorneys for representation.

Punishment for a conviction may include:

  • Sentences of up to one month of confinement or hard labor
  • Forfeiture of pay
  • Reduction in rank.

Special Court-Martial

A special court-martial may try all military personnel subject to the UCMJ, including enlisted members, officers and midshipmen for offenses similar to misdemeanors. Special courts-martial …

  • Are heard by a panel of not less than three members and a military judge, or a military judge alone if requested by the accused. Enlisted members may request that the panel contain at least one-third enlisted personnel.
  • Provide the accused with the right to be represented by a free military attorney and hire their own civilian lawyer.

If found guilty, punishments may include:

  • Bad conduct discharge
  • Confinement of up to one year
  • Hard labor without confinement for up to three months
  • Forfeiture of up to two-thirds monthly pay for up to one year
  • Reduction to lowest enlisted pay grade for enlisted members.

Officers found guilty in a special court-martial cannot be reduced in rank or discharged in a special court-martial.

General Court-Martial

A general court-martial is to try all personnel subject to the UCMJ, including enlisted members, officers, and midshipmen for serious offenses that would be considered a felony in a civilian trial, and punishments are the most severe. General courts-martial …

  • Consist of a panel of not less than five members and a military judge, or a military judge alone if requested by the accused. Enlisted members may request that the panel contain at least one-third enlisted personnel.
  • Provide the accused with the right to be represented by a free military attorney and hire their own civilian lawyer.

Punishments may include the possibility of:

  • Death when specifically authorized
  • Federal criminal conviction
  • Confinement in military prison
  • Punitive discharge, including Dishonorable Discharge, Bad Conduct Discharge, or Dismissal for officers.

A conviction will also bring consequences that will negatively impact your life, even after serving a sentence or being discharged back into civilian life. These may include negative effects on your opportunities for employment, education, and housing, as well as the effect on your relationships and personal and family life.

Make sure you have the best defense available. At the law offices of Richard V. Stevens, we defend military members stationed around the world who are facing military trials, discipline and investigations. We provide a free initial consultation to discuss the circumstances of your charges and show you how we can help, so call us today.

 

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