In this series on the difference between court-martials and civilian cases, we look at the difference between federal rules of evidence and military rules of evidence.
Starting with the first Manual for Courts-Martial publication in 1895, military and civilian law were similar. The creation of the Federal Rules of Evidence launched in 1975 resulted in significant pushback from the military when it came to what they deemed to be civilian Federal Rules and the hurdles posed by adapting them to certain unique aspects of the military system.
Changes to the rules
In 1978, a working group conducted their own evaluation to adapt Federal Rules for incorporation into military courts-martial. Initially, a verbatim approach was employed with negligible changes in the language. The group added in military terminology and procedure and made room for cases where deviations from Federal Rules existed.
In the last year of his term, President Jimmy Carter issued an executive order that amended the manual and rules of evidence. The inclusion of MRE 1102 provides automatic amendment adoption to the Federal Rules of Evidence, provided the commander-in-chief takes different actions.
Adhering to the UCMJ
Today, Armed Forces members must abide by the United Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Civilians are governed by their respective local and state laws, along with federal laws. Awareness, if not some knowledge of the UCMJ, is essential for those serving in the military. These rules were created by Congress in the 1950s and are consistent throughout all military branches.
Criminal allegations against suspects serving their country are complex and high-stakes matters. Punishments range from incarceration to the death penalty. Legal help from an attorney with insight into the inner workings of the military court systems is paramount to secure the best possible outcome.