Even if you plead guilty and are found guilty at your court-martial you may still have a legitimate appeal…

Pleading guilty at a court-martial is a different than when a civilian pleads guilty at his civilian criminal trial.  In a court-martial involving a guilty plea, the military judge conducts what is called a “providence inquiry.”  During this inquiry the military judge has a lengthy discussion with the accused servicemember on the record about the crimes he or she is pleading guilty to at the court-martial.  During the inquiry, the military judge must go through the elements of the crime and question the accused servicemember about what specific acts lead the accused servicemember to believe that he is guilty of that crime.  If the military judge fails to elicit all of the facts necessary to establish the elements of the crime during the court-martial, then the conviction may be overturned during an appeal.  Recently, the Army Court of Criminal Appeals (ACCA) in U.S. v. Castleberry found that the military judge’s providence inquiry “falls far short” on the charge that the appellant (an Army Sergeant First Class) had a prohibited relationship with an Army Specialist when he played beer pong with him and they exposed themselves to each other in order to distract one another during the beer pong game.  Therefore, ACCA set aside the finding of guilty on that charge and reassessed the appellant’s sentence so that he was reduced only one rank, but not given a Bad Conduct Discharge as was originally approved as a part of his sentence.  If you feel you should appeal the result of your court-martial, give me a call.  Also, if you or a loved one is about to face a court-martial and want to speak with someone with experience, give me a call.  The consultation is free.  To speak to an experienced court-martial and military defense attorney, call Bill Cassara at 706-860-5769 for a free consultation.

William E. Cassara- Military Law Attorney

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