What is a sentence reassessment? What is a sentence rehearing? Why do they occur?
When a court-martial is appealed, sometimes, one or more of the findings of guilty are dismissed by the service Court of Criminal Appeals (CCAs) or by the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF). If one or more of an appellant’s convictions are dismissed, the sentence that the appellant received originally during his court-martial may need to be reviewed. The reason a review may be necessary is because when the court-martial panel or military judge issued the original sentence, they did so based on all the offenses, to include those later dismissed. The court-martial sentence may be reviewed by either a sentence reassessment or a sentence rehearing. A sentence reassessment is performed by the appellate courts. A sentence reassessment can only be performed by an appellate court only if that court “confidently can discern the extent of the error’s effect on the sentencing authority’s decision.” (U.S. v. Reed, 33 M.J. 98, 99 (C.M.A. 1991). To conduct a sentence reassessment, an appellate court must consider the entire court-martial record and other principles laid out in case law. (See U.S. v. Sales, 22 M.J. 305 (C.M.A. 1986) and U.S. v. Moffeit, 63 M.J. 40 (C.A.A.F. 2006)). The courts also look at certain factors in reassessing the sentence such as, the serious nature of the remaining court-martial charges, the appellant’s service record and the appellant’s length of service. After the appellate court has carefully considered all that is required, the court may then either lessen the sentence to be appropriate or affirm the sentence as it is. If the offense or offenses that are dismissed are very significant and their dismissal changes things dramatically, then a sentence reassessment may not be possible. In this case, the appellate courts may have to remand the case back to the original convening authority so that a sentence rehearing can be performed. A sentence rehearing is just what it sounds like. It is where the government and the appellant get an opportunity to have a brand new sentencing hearing based on the remaining charges. The government may present aggravation evidence based on the remaining offenses and the defense may present mitigation and extenuation evidence to a military judge or court-martial panel. Then, based only on the offenses that remain and the evidence presented, a new sentence will be issued. I have a great deal of experience at the court-martial level and the appellate level. Without a knowledgeable and experienced advocate by your side, facing a court-martial or court-martial appeal can be daunting. You need someone by your side with experience. To speak to an experienced court-martial and military defense attorney, call Bill Cassara at 706-860-5769 for a free consultation.