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Court-martial is not the same as civilian courts

Military service is often a source of pride for those who dedicate years of their lives to the defense of freedom. For many, perhaps for you, the training and experience you receive in the military can open doors for your future career or perhaps convince you to make a career in the armed services.

Nothing can dash those dreams faster than accusations of misconduct and the threat of a court-martial. If your commanding officer recently detained you for alleged violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, you have every reason to be concerned because it may lead to a court-martial. Whether you are facing this process because of a minor violation or a severe offense, your future is on the line, and you should not have to deal with that on your own.

Serious charges and severe penalties

The severity of the offense of which someone has accused you will determine which level of court-martial is appropriate for your situation. Summary court-martial is for minor offenses and occurs before a judge and a panel of three service members. A special court-martial also has a judge and a panel of three, but it is for more serious situations and more closely resembles a civilian criminal trial. The general court-martial has a much larger panel and is for severe violations of the UCMJ.

No matter which level of court-martial you face, the consequences can be severe if the panel decides against you, including these potential penalties:

  • Summary: A maximum of 30 days in confinement, travel restrictions after your release, hard labor, loss of pay for one month, loss of rank
  • Special: Confinement for up to one year, loss of pay for six months, hard labor, military discharge for bad conduct
  • General: Life in prison, dishonorable discharge, possibly execution for extreme situations

As you can see, even a summary court-martial can have long-reaching repercussions, but if you face more serious charges, your life may be on the line. A court-martial does not replace any pending civilian action. You may have to go through a trial in civilian court for the same offense. For either of these processes, it is critical that you know your rights. Among those rights is having an experienced attorney at your side to advise you and guide you through the process.

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