What should I expect if I am called to a court-martial after charges have been preferred against me?
An Air Force Academy cadet was recently acquitted of sexual misconduct at a court-martial. The sophomore cadet was charged with violating Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including one specification of sexual assault and two for abusive sexual contact. Charges stemmed from an alleged incident in which the cadet groped, fondled, and otherwise behaved in an aggressive sexual manner towards a female cadet.
Facing court-martial, the cadet elected to have his case heard by a military judge instead of a panel of officers. The judge heard testimony and reviewed all of the evidence during the trial. Ultimately, the cadet was acquitted of all charges.
Preparing for a Court-Martial Trial
If a charge has been preferred or initiated against you, you may be feeling stressed and confused as to the court-martial process. It is important that you gain an understanding of the proceedings to come so that you can best prepare yourself.
You Have the Right to Counsel
You have the right to an attorney if a charge has been preferred against you. You can elect to either have a Judge Advocate appointed to your case or retain a private court-martial defense attorney of your choosing. Your attorney will be your main advocate. It is imperative that you ensure you have experienced counsel that will provide your case with the attention it deserves and help you to effectively tell your side of the story.
Probable Cause Hearing
You have the right to an Article 32 probable cause hearing before your case goes to a general court-martial trial. During the hearing, the prosecutor must present probable cause that you committed the charged offense. Your attorney will assist you in challenging the evidence and presenting your own evidence.
The Court-Martial Trial
You have the right to be tried before a military judge or a court-martial jury. During the trial, you will have the chance to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses. Unlike a civilian trial, it generally takes just a two-thirds vote among the jury to find you guilty.