In the military, criminal prosecutions are handled in courts martial, which are trials before a panel of either commissioned officers or a combination of commissioned officers and enlisted members. The levels of courts martial include summary court martial, special court martial, special court martial empaneled to adjudge a bad conduct discharge, and general court martial. The severity of the alleged offense typically dictates which level of court martial your commander will select.
If you are charged in a court martial, you have the right to be represented by a civilian lawyer as well as an appointed military lawyer. In a general court martial, the highest level of court martial, the accused is entitled to an investigative hearing to determine the validity of the charges, referred to an Article 32, UCMJ hearing. Just like a court martial trial, you are entitled to representation at this hearing and may even cross examine government witnesses. At trial, and in an Article 32 hearing, the accused is entitled to remain silent and not make any statement against him/herself.
If you are charged in a Court Martial, you should take the matter very seriously. Most charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice are punishable by forfeiture of pay, reduction in pay grade, confinement and even a punitive discharge from the military. A punitive discharge from the military results in not receiving an Honorable Discharge, which may greatly impact your ability to obtain certain employment and may result in the loss of veteran’s benefits. Additionally, a conviction at a court martial is a federal conviction that may appear on your criminal record, which will have a profound effect on your future.
Courts martial have their own special rules of procedure, rules of evidence, and are guided by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. If a court martial conviction is appealed, it goes to a military appeals court, which considers the case based on military case law.
At The Carlson Law Firm, our attorneys are experienced in trying cases at court martial. Several of our attorneys have served in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps and have developed the very skills and experience needed to zealously represent service members in these trials. If you are charged in a court martial, or there is a pending investigation, you should call us immediately.