Did you know that there are three different types of military courts-martial? The concept of court-martial law is foreign to many, as this legal process can be extremely complex at first glance. To help clear up some confusion, our firm has detailed the differences between the three levels of courts-martial and what each type means for you.
Basic or Summary
In a basic or summary court-martial, the procedure is simplified for the purposes of resolving minor charges of misconduct. In this process, a single officer acts as the sole finder of fact, with the accused not being entitled to obtain military defense counsel. Some services such as the United States Air Force, however, will provide free legal representation for accused service members tried at summary-court martial. Others, however, may only retain representation at their own expense.
Summary court-martial generally carries much lesser penalties than a Special or General court-martial, with punishments ranging depending on the accused’s paygrade. Accused service members must consent to being tried by a summary court-marital, otherwise the command may use other means of dealing with the infraction such as petitioning for trial before a general or special court-martial. Officers, however, may not be tried by summary court-martial.
Special court-marital trials are more serious than summary trials. In this intermediate level, a military judge, prosecution, defense counsel, and a minimum three-officer jury are involved. Accused enlisted service members have a right to request that the court consist of at least one-third enlisted personnel, as well as the right to request a trial by judge alone. Depending on the charges, maximum penalties for infractions tried by special court-martial include one year of confinement, loss of two-thirds of basic pay for a period of six months, and a possible bad-conduct discharge for enlisted personnel.
A general court-martial is the highest military court level that a service member can be prosecuted and carries the highest possible penalties. Similarly to a special court-martial, this process involves a military judge, prosecution, defense, and a minimum of five other court members. This is reserved for the most serious charges, including those that carry the possibility of the death penalty. Other penalties for general court-martial tried charges include confinement, dishonorable discharge, officer dismissal, and several other punishments.
Before this process begins, a pretrial investigation must be conducted under Article 32 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice unless otherwise waived by the accused service member. Free military legal representation is offered to the accused, though private civilian counsel can be retained at the accused’s expense.
Facing Court-Marital? Contact McCormack & McCormack Today
The military criminal justice system is extremely serious, carrying a 90% conviction rate. If you are facing charges, it is imperative that you retain the services of a trial-tested military criminal defense attorney from McCormack & McCormack as soon as possible to maximize your chances of securing a desirable outcome for your situation. Having defended countless military service members since 1979, our firm can provide the hard-hitting representation you need during this difficult time.
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