A court-martial is best described as a military criminal trial. Courts-martial are designed to determine whether a service member accused of criminal activity is guilty or innocent of their charges. Generally speaking, just about any criminal offense committed by a service member is under the jurisdiction of a military court-martial.
If a service member is convicted at a court-martial, punishments can include incarceration, loss of rank and pay, and a “punitive” (i.e. dishonorable, bad conduct or dismissal) discharge. In almost all courts-martial, prosecutors will seek jail time and a discharge.
A court-martial is a serious predicament and not a time for anyone less than the best to lead the defense team. If you or someone close to you faces a court-martial, you need to call William Cassara for a free consultation at (888) 288-3347.
In its most basic form, the structure of a court-martial is similar to civilian criminal trials. Just like civilian trials, a court-martial will typically include a judge, jury, prosecutor, defense attorney, bailiff, and court reporter. Courts-martial usually take place inside a courtroom.
In a court-martial, the government will attempt to prove that a service member committed a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). As in a civilian court, the burden of proof in a court-martial is on the government to prove the accused’s guilt, beyond a reasonable doubt. While there are several crimes specific to the military, much of the crimes outlined in the UCMJ are very much like the crimes that are prosecuted in civilian courts.
Examples of crimes specific to the military:
• Dereliction of Duty;
• Absent Without Leave (AWOL);
• Failure to Obey an Order; and
More to come next week, when we’ll cover the court-martial proceeding.