The origins of the U.S. military justice system involved soldiers disciplined during wartime. Commanders possessed the unlimited authority to punish offenders up to the level of criminal prosecution.
Recently implemented reforms revamped the U.S. military justice system. However, many fear that the move will make a bad situation worse. Lawmakers took away the authority of military commanders prosecuting certain cases, yet will have power over other criminal accusations.
Commanders who are not licensed attorneys will still maintain control of certain facets of the system and decide the confinement of soldiers before a trial.
Scandals resulted in action
Issues came to light during the Tailhook scandal and pervasive sexual misconduct and mistreatment of women serving their country, confirming an environment of permissive sexual harassment and assault. The aftermath saw the secretary of the Navy reassigned and multiple admirals censored or outright relieved of duty. In response, the Navy formally adopted a zero-tolerance policy.
Congress doubled down and categorized sexual assault as a separate crime in military law when it used to be charged with other misconduct. The decision made it easier to charge soldiers with serious, potentially career-threatening crimes. Additional mandates involved removing jurors and allowing military judges to impose sentences on servicemembers short of death penalty cases.
Critics claim that the reforms lack “teeth” due to military commanders still possessing authority over criminal cases, including decisions to prosecute offenses ranging from the distribution of controlled substances to robbery.
The consequences of military convictions can ruin reputations and end careers. Cases are high-stakes and require the help of an attorney who is skilled, experienced, and successful in this complex area of the law.