A court-martial is a court that tries armed service members who have been accused of breaking military laws. There are three types of court-martial—summary, special, and general—and the decisions of each of these courts may be appealed. Below are overviews of the summary, special, and general court-martial appeals processes.
The Summary Court-Martial Appeal Process
When a member of the armed services is convicted of an Article 15 offense through a summary court-martial, he or she may request an appeal. However, unlike special and general court-martials, discussed below, appeals are not automatic following a summary court-martial conviction, so it is the responsibility of the defendant to file the appeal. When a summary court-martial decision is appealed, it is reviewed by a judge advocate, who examines the case to determine whether its factual and legal findings are correct. Depending on the findings, the convening authority can then affirm the original decision, reduce the punishment, or reverse the original decision.
The Special and General Court-Martial Appeals Processes
Unlike summary court-martial decisions, convictions by special or general court-martials are automatically reviewed by the convening authority who initially referred the case. The convening authority then has the right to mitigate the sentence and findings. Mitigation can include reduced charges, a reduced sentence, or a complete dismissal of all charges. However, the convening authority may not increase the sentence that was originally imposed. And for those defendants who are unsatisfied with their initial appeal results, there may be additional options available, including appealing to one of the following four courts:
- Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals
- Army Court of Criminal Appeals
- Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals
- Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals
If a defendant is dishonorably discharged, discharged due to bad conduct, dismissed, sentenced to confinement for at least one year, or sentenced to death, then his or her case will be automatically reviewed by one of the above courts. However, when other sentences are imposed, the above courts may choose whether or not to accept such cases on appeal. If a court of appeal refuses to hear a case, then the defendant may petition the judge advocate general to order that his or her case be reviewed.
Denver Court Martial Defense Attorneys
The punishments and penalties for military crimes can be harsh. Therefore, if you are currently facing a military court-martial, it’s important to seek experienced legal counsel as soon as possible. Our attorneys have years of experience defending service members facing a wide array of serious allegations. Combining years of trial experience on high profile cases, our experienced attorneys offer our military clients top-tier representation. Whether you are stationed in the United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Germany, Italy, Korea, Japan or elsewhere, our experienced Denver attorneys are ready and willing to right for your rights regardless of your location. Please contact us for a free consultation as soon as possible.