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How Long Does a Military Trial Usually Last?

The military justice system generally speaking is far more streamlined and efficient than the civilian system. While civilian trials may wait years in busy jurisdictions before being heard, military justice system trials will frequently be much more efficient.

There are however cases where the investigation may seem to drag out for an extended period of time before charges are formally initiated. Frequently, the timeline for military trials depends on the type of court martial that has been assigned to the specific charge or charges.


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What Are The Three Types of Court-Martial?

1. Summary court martial: Summary courts martial are the lowest level trials in the military justice system. Summary courts martial involve only one officer and do not require a panel or military judge. Usually defense attorneys are not involved in a summary court-martial. Trials of this type may be completed in as little as a several hours and rarely last longer than a day.

2. Special court martial: Special courts martial are the intermediate level in the military justice system and deal with the prosecution of more serious charges. As a result, once charges are formally referred, these cases can take an average of three to six months to get to trial. This timeframe may be extended even further if the trial involves a military panel rather than a single judge. Actual time in court can vary, but there may be a half day of so for a motion session (Art. 39a), plus 2-4 days of trial.

3. General court martial: The most egregious offenses are tried in general courts martial, the highest tier of trials. General courts martial require an Article 32 hearing and the involvement of multi-person panels, various witnesses, and extensive examination of evidence. As a result, once charges are formally referred, these cases can take in excess of three to six months to get to trial. Actual time in court can again vary, but there may be several motion sessions (Art. 39a), plus 3-5 or days of trial.

How Long is The Trial?

Regardless of the type of courts-martial, all military trials begin with an investigation of a suspected person before formal charges are even brought upon them. This process begins when the military suspects that someone may have committed a crime, involving witness interviews, requesting formal statements from the accused, and gathering evidence. This can take anywhere from 30 days to more than a year depending on the situation.

Regardless of the circumstances, it is imperative that individuals suspected of military criminal activity seek powerful legal counsel to ensure their rights are protected and begin preparing for the possibility of a trial. If you are being investigated for a crime, our knowledgeable military criminal defense lawyer at McCormack & McCormack can defend your freedom and level the playing field against the prosecution’s claims.

Having served as a former JAG officer and represented the rights of accused service members for more than 35 years, our founding lawyer Greg D. McCormack is equipped with the knowledge and skills to maximize your chances of securing a favorable outcome for your situation.


Call (888) 490-0876 or schedule a free consultation today to get started towards retaining the hard-hitting defense you deserve. We are available 24/7 to discuss your case.


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