The Three Categories of Courts-Martial – General

A General Court-Martial is the most serious level of military courts, above both Summary and Special Courts-Martial. It consists of a military judge, trial counsel, defense counsel, and at least five court members. As with the other Courts-Martial, enlisted accused service members 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. A General Court-Martial may adjudge any punishment not prohibited by the UCMJ. The maximum punishment is that established for each offense under the Manual for Courts-Martial can be applied, and may include:

  • Death (for specific offenses);
  • Confinement;
  • Dishonorable or bad-conduct discharges for enlisted service members;
  • Dismissal for officers; and
  • Certain lesser punishments.

A General Court-Martial is often characterized as a felony court, and may try all persons subject to the UCMJ, including officers and midshipmen. A pretrial investigation under Article 32, UCMJ, must be conducted before any case may be referred to a General Court-Martial, unless waived by the accused service member.

William E. Cassara- Military Law Attorney

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