The military justice system allows for the government and defense to negotiate pretrial agreements. If you are considering pleading guilty to some of the offenses listed on your charge sheet at your court-martial, it is typically best to have an experienced attorney negotiate a pretrial agreement on your behalf. Typically, in a pretrial agreement an accused agrees to plead guilty to some (not necessarily all) of the charges listed on the charge sheet at his court-martial. In exchange for a plea of guilty to some of the charges, the convening authority typically agrees to a cap on the sentence the accused can receive. For instance, the pretrial agreement might say that if the accused pleads guilty at his court-martial, he cannot be confined for more than 4 months or possibly that he cannot be confined at all. Also, this agreement might state that an accused cannot be kicked out of the service as a result of his court-martial guilty plea. With regards to pretrial agreements, the military justice system is unique because the military judge or military panel sentencing an accused is not told what was agreed to in the agreement before rendering a sentence. In other words, the military judge or panel sentencing an accused in a court-martial does so with no knowledge of a sentence cap that might have been agreed to between the accused and the convening authority. If the military judge or panel sentences an accused to less than that agreed to in the pretrial agreement, the accused is given the lesser sentence. If the military judge or panel sentences the accused to more than that agreed to in the pretrial agreement, then the accused gets the lesser sentence found in the agreement. The bottom line is with a pretrial agreement, the accused gets whichever sentence is less, that sentence given by the military judge or panel or that agreed to in the pretrial agreement. Another concern that those considering negotiating a plea in a court-martial face is whether failed plea negotiations might be used against him later if he chooses to plead not guilty. Under the Military Rules of Evidence (M.R.E.) 410, withdrawn pleas of guilty or “statements made in the course of plea discussions” cannot be admitted against an accused during a court-martial in which he is pleading not guilty. Therefore, an experienced defense counsel can begin negotiations on your behalf regarding a guilty plea and if in the end the offers from the government are not adequate, the statements made during these negotiations cannot be held against you at your court-martial. I know the ins and outs of plea negotiations. I know the ins and outs of court-martials and court-martial appeals. I have been doing this a long time. Facing a court-martial is a major event in someone’s life/military career. Let me help you whether you are looking to plead guilty or not guilty at your court-martial. To speak to an experienced court-martial and military defense attorney, call Bill Cassara at 706-860-5769 for a free consultation.