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A New Type of Special Court-Martial Debuts in 2019

Court of Appeals

Extensive changes to military justice went into effect on January 1, 2019. One of the biggest changes was the addition of a new type of court-martial. Article 16(c)(2)(A) allows a special court-martial convening authority to refer charges to a special court-martial consisting of a military judge alone. Unlike when the charges are tried at a standard special court-martial, the service member cannot choose to be tried by a panel of military members instead of the military judge. Unlike with NJP or summary courts-martial, a service member cannot refuse trial in this new type.

This new type of special court-martial also limits the sentence that can be awarded. The military judge cannot award a sentence of more than six months confinement or more than six months forfeiture of pay, and cannot award a bad-conduct discharge.This type of court-martial is meant for handling lower level cases, such as NJP-refusals, more quickly and without the need for a commander to provide members. It also reduces the amount of time and resources needed post-trial.

Following a special court-martial under Article 16(c)(2)(A), only a summarized transcript will be created and these cases cannot be appealed to the Courts of Criminal Appeals either automatically or upon request. However, the Judge Advocate General of each service will review convictions to ensure that the sentence is legal and to address any errors the convicted service member raises.

Over all, this new type of court-martial should allow for less serious offenses, such as orders violations and unauthorized absences, to be disposed of quickly without the administrative burden that the standard special court-martial can impose on commanders. The old special court-martial, which allows sentences that include up to one year of confinement and a bad-conduct discharge, still exists and commanders can still refer charges to that forum if they wish.

If you or your loved one is facing a court-martial or want to appeal a court-martial, you need someone with experience who knows the Rules and the system. I have the experience you need. Please call Bill Cassara at (706) 860-5769 for a free consultation.

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