What to Know About the 3 Types of Military Court-Martial

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When a member of the armed services is accused of offenses against military law, the military has its own internal judicial court system for prosecuting them. This is called a “court-martial.” There are three different types of courts-martial: summary, special, and general. Each exists for its own reasons, is made up of different officials, and deals with different levels of severity. 

Summary Court-Martial

When a military member has been charged with a minor incident of misconduct, he or she is tried by summary court-martial. Summary Court-Martial provides a simple procedure for resolving such charges. It consists of an officer who is commonly a military attorney (also known as a judge advocate). The individual who has been accused must consent to being tried by this court, but the maximum punishment that a summary court-martial is allowed to impose is significantly less than the other two types of courts-martial. 

Special Court-Martial

When it comes to an accusation against a member of the military that is not so minor, but also not the most severe in nature, a special court-martial is generally appropriate. There are two types of special court-martial: 

  1. The first type of special court-martial consists of a military judge, trial counsel (also known as a prosecutor), defense counsel, and a four-member panel (jury), should the accused elect this. If not, the case will solely be tried by a military judge.
  2. The second type of special court-martial may be ordered that only a military judge determines whether the accused is guilty and provides any subsequent sentences or punishments. 

If the accused has the option of electing a panel, the sentence is limited to a maximum of 12 months of confinement, loss of all pay, a discharge for bad conduct, and for enlisted members, a reduction in rank. If a special court-martial is tried by a judge alone, without an authorized panel, the sentence maxes out at six months confinement, loss of pay for six months, and a reduction in rank for those who are enlisted. Should an officer by accused in a special court-martial, he or she may not be dismissed from the service, confined, or reduced in rank. 

General Court Martial

By far, the most serious type of military court is a general court-martial, which consists of a military judge, trial counsel, defense counsel, and six to eight members of the court. So long as the accusations surrounding the case could not adjudicate a death sentence, either an enlisted member or an officer may request trial by judge alone. 

Dependent upon the type of accusation, there is a wide range of possible punishments, which are specified under the Manual for Courts-Martial. This may include dishonorable or bad-conduct discharge, reduction in rank for those enlisted, dismissal for officers, other punishments, or even death. In order for a case is eligible to be referred to a general court-martial, a preliminary hearing must be conducted – unless the accused waives his or her right. 

Court-Martial Law Division of Aviso Law LLC

If you or a loved one has been charged with an offense under court-martial law, it is very important to consult with an experienced attorney who understands the way that the military runs its courts and who knows what is actually at stake. 

At the Court-Martial Law Division of Aviso Law LLC, we understand what is involved in these types of cases and will work with you to minimize or eliminate the consequences of which your charge is associated. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, call the Court-Martial Law Division of Aviso Law LLC at 719-247-3111 today!

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