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How is a court martial different from a civilian trial?

On Behalf of | Oct 13, 2021 | Military Law |

If you are a military servicemember facing a court martial, you might not know what to expect. Not knowing the process in front of you can add considerably to the already stressful situation.

Since most people have a basic understanding of criminal proceedings in the civilian court system, it is often helpful to compare courts-martial to this civilian process.

Three primary differences

Courts-martial differ from civilian criminal trials in that:

  • Courts martial are more efficient: Expediting justice and coming to efficient resolution are among the most important goals in courts-martial. Therefore, the entire proceeding in a court-martial can take as little as a few days in some cases.
  • There are only three types of courts martial: While civilian trials can be for misdemeanors and felonies, in state or federal court, there are only three basic types of courts-martial. These are summary courts-martial, special courts-martial and general courts-martial, each with its own degree of serious and potential penalties.
  • Your sentence can include demotion or discharge: In the civilian court system, a criminal trial generally does not directly result in a loss of career or demotion. Although career problems often result from a conviction, it is usually not part of the actual sentence. In a court-martial, however, the result is often the loss of rank or, in more serious situations, less-than-honorable discharge from the military.

These are only a few of the ways that courts-martial differ from civilian trials. All the procedures, potential penalties and rules are unique to military law. Only a lawyer experienced in military criminal defense should handle courts-martial. If you have been charged with any kind of military crime, make sure you work with a military attorney you can trust to provide you with strong defense and to protect your future.