March 3, 2022
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What is A Court Martial?

What is A Court Martial?

James HawesMarch 3, 2022,

A court-martial is a military court hearing analogous to a civilian court trial. It is typically used to punish significant criminal actions such as felonies. A Non-Judicial Punishment (NJP) is frequently held for less serious criminal offenses or breaches of military etiquette and standards. Among the services, NJP is known by various names among the services, including Article 15, Office Hours, and Captain's Mast.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) distinguishes three sorts of military courts:

  • Summary
  • Special
  • General

The kind of offenses that these courts-martial consider, the makeup of the judge and jury, and the punishments they can impose are all different.

Summary Court-Martial

One commissioned officer serves as judge and jury in a summary court-martial. It can only hear cases involving enlisted personnel who have committed minor offenses. The accused has the right to cross-examine witnesses, call witnesses and produce evidence, speak or keep silent, and to call witnesses and present evidence.

While they do not have the right to a free military attorney, they can hire one and represent themselves at the hearing. A summary court-martial can hand down sentences of up to one month in prison, hard labor, pay the forfeiture, and rank demotion.

Special Court-Martial

A special court-martial consists of a panel of at least three members plus a military judge, although an accused may be tried solely by a military judge if they so desire. Enlisted members might request that at least one-third of the panel be made up of enlisted troops.

A special court-martial, also known as a misdemeanor court, can try anybody subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including enlisted personnel, officers, and midshipmen.

Except for death, dishonorable discharge, dismissal, confinement for more than one year, hard labor without confinement for more than three months, forfeiture of pay exceeding two-thirds pay per month, and any forfeiture of pay for more than one year, a special court-martial may impose any punishment. The accused can hire their civilian lawyer or be represented by a free military attorney.

Members who are found guilty will face a poor conduct discharge, a year of confinement, three months of hard work without confinement, and a one-year forfeiture of up to two-thirds of their monthly wage. Enlisted soldiers may be demoted to the lowest enlisted pay grade, while officers convicted in a special court-martial cannot be demoted or fired due to their sentence.

General Court-Martial

A general court-martial consists of a panel of at least five members plus a military judge, although an accused may be tried solely by a military judge if they so desire. Enlisted members might request that at least one-third of the panel be made up of enlisted troops.

A general court-martial is sometimes referred to as a felony court. It has the authority to try anybody subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including enlisted personnel, officers, and midshipmen. The accused can hire their civilian lawyer, or a free military attorney can represent them. Any punishment not banned by the UCMJ may be imposed by a general court-martial, including death when specifically permitted.
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