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The basics of the court-martial process for military members

Posted by Douglas Cody | Jun 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

Those who serve in the United States armed forces are subject to a higher standard of behavior than the average citizen. Rather than simply needing to follow federal, state and local laws, they must adhere to The Uniform Code of Military Justice, which is far stricter.

From forbidding adultery to any behavior that will bring dishonor to the armed forces, there are many rules that military service members must be aware of and comply with in order to continue their military careers. Those accused of infractions will possibly face the court-martial process and the consequences that it brings with it.

There are 3 kinds of courts-martial

An accused service member could face one of three kinds of courts-martial. The first is a summary court-martial, which involves only a single commissioned officer making a decision and creating a sentence. This option is usually for lesser offenses.

A special court-martial is like a criminal court trial, with charges that could be compared to misdemeanors. The court-martial has three service members who oversee everything as a panel and make a decision regarding guilt and punishment.

A general court-martial is for the most serious offenses, comparable to felonies. The panel making judgment and establishing penalties will be at least five members in most cases. In capital cases where death could be a penalty, the panel will have at least 10 commissioned officers, typically of higher rank than the person accused.

What are the potential penalties for those facing court-martial

If an accused party pleads not guilty, they and the prosecution will have the opportunity to present their case in front of the panel or commissioned officer overseeing the process. Service members have the right either to use an attorney provided by the military or to hire their own attorney to assist them in their defense. However, in summary court-martial cases, only Air Force members will receive counsel provided by the military.

The penalties someone faces range from dishonorable discharge to confinement, hard labor, demotion/loss of rank, reduced pay, or lost pay and benefits. In the most severe cases, death or capital punishment could also be a possibility. Mounting a thorough defense is important for those facing court-martial, especially if they intend to continue a military career.

About the Author

Douglas Cody

Mr. Cody served as a Federal prosecutor and trial defense counsel in all types of major felony criminal cases. Additionally, while serving in the military law branch in the Pentagon, he was responsible for providing legal advice to Commandant of the Marine Corps, Department of Defense Office of General Counsel, and Office of the Secretary of Defense in matters of military law pertaining to the conduct of the Global War on Terror.


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