What is a discharge in lieu of court-martial? Should I submit a request for one?

If court-martial charges have been preferred against you and you are guilty of one or more of the offenses on the charge sheet, you have many options.  You may plead not guilty to all charges, you may plead guilty to some charges or you may plead guilty to all charges.  Another option is to request an administrative discharge in lieu of a court-martial.  This request can be made if at least one of the offenses you face has a maximum punishment that includes the possibility of a punitive discharge from your service.  Such a request for administrative discharge can only come from an accused.  No one can force this upon you.  Additionally, a request for an administrative discharge may not make sense in every case.  However, in some cases, it may be an advisable way to proceed.  A request for discharge in lieu of court-martial can be submitted anytime after the preferral of charges and before action is taken by the Convening Authority in the court-martial.  In other words, it is possible to submit a request for discharge in lieu of court-martial after the court-martial has taken place, but before the convening authority has taken final action.  In fact, recently, the Army Court of Criminal Appeals (ACCA) in United States v. Benjamin allowed an Army warrant officer to submit a post trial request for discharge in lieu of court-martial after final action because the Court found that his defense counsel failed to properly submit his post trial request for discharge before action.  If and when to submit a request for such a discharge depends on the specific circumstances of the case, which is why you need to be advised by someone with a lot of experience.  I have this experience.  If a request for discharge in lieu of court-martial is granted by a convening authority, the court-martial charges will be dismissed.  However, these requests are often granted with the characterization of an Other Than Honorable Discharge (OTH).  It is possible, however, to receive a higher characterization than an OTH.  Additionally, if an OTH is given to a servicemember, that servicemember may request an upgrade to this characterization later from the Discharge Review Boards or the Boards for Correction of Military Records.  I have assisted many former servicemembers make requests for discharge upgrades.  If you are facing court-martial charges and believe that you would like to submit a request for discharge in lieu of court-martial, call me, I can help.  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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