What are the different types of courts-martial?

Summary Court Martial

Trial by summary court-martial provides a simplified procedure for the resolution of charges involving minor incidents of misconduct. The summary court-martial consists of one officer who is not required to be an attorney or judge. It is frequently a line officer from within the command. The maximum punishment a summary court-martial may impose is considerably less than a special or general court-martial. The accused must consent to be tried by a summary court-martial, and the service member can request trial by a "regular" court-martial. Of particular importance is the fact that conviction by Summary Court-Martial does not count as a "conviction" in the civilian world.

Special Court Martial

A special court-martial is the intermediate court level. It consists of a military judge, trial counsel (prosecutor), defense counsel, and a minimum of three officers sitting as a panel of court members or jury. An enlisted accused may request a court composed of at least one-third enlisted personnel. An accused, officer or enlisted, may also request trial by judge alone. Regardless of the offenses involved, a special court-martial sentence is limited to no more than one year confinement, forfeiture of two-third's basic pay per month for one year, a bad-conduct discharge (for enlisted personnel), and certain lesser punishments. An officer accused in a special court-martial cannot be dismissed from the service or confined.

General Court Martial

A general court-martial is the most serious level of military courts. It consists of a military judge, trial counsel, defense counsel, and at least five court members. In capitol cases, there must be at least twelve members on the court. Again, an enlisted accused may request a court composed of at least one-third enlisted personnel. Unless the case is one in which the death sentence could be adjudged, an officer or enlisted accused may also request trial by judge alone.

In a general court-martial, the maximum punishment is that established for each offense under the Manual for Courts-Martial, and may include death (for certain offenses), confinement, a dishonorable or bad-conduct discharge for enlisted personnel, a dismissal for officers, or a number of other lesser forms of punishment.

A pretrial investigation under Article 32, UCMJ, must be conducted before a case may be referred to a general court-martial, unless waived by the accused. The Article 32 Investigation is the military equivalent of the preliminary hearing or grand jury in the civilian sector.

 

William E. Cassara- Military Law Attorney

Recent Accomplishments

Discharge Review

CAAF Sets Aside Sentence in Case After Improper Argument by Prosecutors

By William Cassara | February 25, 2021

The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces [CAAF] released a decision in United States v. Norwood on February 24, 2021. Petty Officer Norwood’s niece alleged that he had sexually abused her. At trial, the prosecutors made several improper and inflammatory arguments to the members. Prosecutors can make strong arguments […]

Read More
William E. Cassara, Military Law Attorney

Supreme Court Reverses CAAF on Statute of Limitations in Military Rape Cases

By William Cassara | February 1, 2021

From 1986 to 2006, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) listed several offenses as eligible for the death penalty. One of those offenses was rape of an adult. The UCMJ stated that offenses “punishable by death” had no statute of limitations. This meant that these types of cases could […]

Read More
William E. Cassara, Military Law Attorney

Navy Discharge Review Board Gives Navy NCO Great Result

By William Cassara | January 11, 2021

The Navy Discharge Review Board recently amended our client’s DD-214 to allow him to reenlist and continue his 16 year career.

Read More
Scroll to Top