I am unfamiliar with the different types of courts-martial. Should it matter to me?
Knowledge is power. Knowing the type of courts-martial and the potential punishment will affect how you approach your case. The least serious court-martial is called a summary court-martial. Summary courts-martial are a type of administrative punishment. Unlike special and general courts-martial, summary courts-martial will not mean a federal conviction on your record if you are found guilty.
The next level of court-martial, special courts-martial, is a level of court-martial that is reserved for less major offenses (such as disobeying an order). Many times, special courts-martial are also reserved for military-specific offenses that you cannot find in the civilian world, such as going AWOL. Special courts-martial are generally considered misdemeanors in the civilian world, but as we discussed in last week’s blog entry, that is not always the case.
The third level of court-martial is the general court-martial, which can result in the maximum possible punishment for an offense. General courts-martial are reserved for the most serious offenses and, for the most extreme cases, can result in the death sentence or life in prison without the possibility of parole.