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Who Determines Guilt at a Court-Martial – Part Three

The accused has the option of having his or her court-martial heard by either a judge or jury (called a panel in the military.) Military judges are Judge Advocate General (JAG) attorneys, and the panel members are both military officers and enlisted service members.  All members of the panel will be senior in rank to the accused, and must be from a different unit.  If the accused is enlisted he or she can request that at least 1/3 of the panel members be enlisted.

The judge or panel will determine whether the accused is guilty and, if so, what the punishment should be.   The punishment the accused can receive in a court-martial depends upon on the seriousness of the crime, as well as the type of court-martial. Punishments may include a reduction of rank and pay, imprisonment, and a punitive discharge (bad conduct or dishonorable for enlisted members, dismissal for officers.) Frequently, those facing a court-martial are most concerned with the threat of imprisonment more than any other form of punishment, but that is not always the case.  For example, if the service member is near retirement, he or she may be concerned with reaching retirement than the period of confinement.

– At a Special court-martial, you can be imprisoned for a maximum of one year; and
– At a General court-martial, the only limit on how much prison time you could face is the limit provided in the UCMJ for that crime.

The punishments mentioned above are the maximum that a accused can expect to receive for that category of court-martial. If convicted, the accused may (and often does) get less punishment than the maximum. The accused’s ability to do so will depend on the impact the crime had on the victim (if any) as well as the military’s mission, their service record, and their potential to have a positive influence on society. A lot also depends on the attorney.

If you need a court-martial attorney please call William Cassara toll-free at (888) 288-3347 for a free consultation.

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