Post-Trial Review of a Court Martial: Your Chance to Appeal the Decision

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There are many parallels between the civilian and military judicial systems; one of them is the ability to appeal a decision. If you’ve been convicted in a court martial, a post-trial review, or appeal, may be an option you should consider. During this review another judge or higher court reviews the decision for errors or mistakes and whether the sentence is appropriate.

What types of post-trial review are applicable to your case depends on the type of court martial you had and your sentence or punishment.

If you had a special or general court martial and your sentence includes a bad conduct or dishonorable discharge the convening authority (or CA, normally your immediate commander, who referred your case to the court martial) will automatically review your case. The CA can:

• Throw out your conviction,
• Approve the sentence, 
• Suspend all or part of it, or
• Throw out or reduce your sentence.  

You are usually entitled to an automatic appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeals for your branch if the sentence has been approved and it includes:

• One year or more in jail, 
• A bad-conduct or dishonorable discharge, 
• Dismissal if you’re a commissioned officer, or
• Death.

If you appeal but the court agrees with your conviction or sentence, you may request the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) review your case. An appeal to this court is not automatically granted unless:

• You’ve been given the death penalty, or
• The judge advocate general in your branch sends the case to the CAAF for review.

If the CAAF reviews your case but agrees the decision was properly made your last appeal option is the U.S. Supreme Court. This is done by filing a petition for a writ of certiorari which would state why your case should be reviewed and the outcome you’re seeking, such as throwing out your conviction or lessening your sentence. The country’s highest court rarely takes court martial cases, but will do so if the justices feel it’s appropriate.

The attorneys at Elkus, Sisson & Rosenstein are experienced in appealing court martial decisions and defending the rights of their clients.  Our Denver and Colorado Springs attorneys can be reached at (303)567-7981. Call for a free consultation today.

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