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What You Need to Know About Court Martial Appeals
If you’re looking for the best military criminal attorneys in San Diego, chances are you’re either facing court martial proceedings, or you’ve already been sentenced and you’re preparing your court martial appeal. Whatever the case, besides getting familiar with the different court martial types, the minutiae of the process, and the potential punishments of an unfavorable decision, try to get to know as much as you can about the appellate process that might await you.
Summary court martial appeal
One thing worth noting at the very beginning is that the process of appealing the summary court martial on one hand, and general and special court martials on the other are two completely different matters. The process of appealing the decision reached at a summary court martial is a lot more straightforward that it is with the other two types of court martial.
When it comes to being convicted under Article 15, there is no automatic review. The defendant needs to file for an appeal in order to begin the process. You file an appeal up the chain of command, and usually a staff judge advocate’s office lawyer takes it under consideration, before sending it to a senior commander. It is up to this senior commander to confirm, reduce, or completely waive the proposed punishment.
If the decision remains, again, unfavorable for your case, you hold no right to appeal to different military courts of appeal. You can either request that the Judge Advocate General review the case, or submit an appeal to the Board of Correction for Military Records.
General and special court martial appeal
Unlike summary court martial, general and special court martial appeals function by the principle of automatic reviews, meaning that the individual who referred your case to a court martial in the first case is the person reviewing your conviction. That individual, also called “convening authority”, can choose to mitigate the sentence, i.e. reduce or dismiss the charges altogether.
In the case of the convening authority reaching a decision you deem unsuitable, you reserve the right to appeal to the military court of appeals designated for the branch of service you are a member of. Now, let’s get into the details of general and special court martial appeal process.
Right to legal representation
The most important thing is that, while appealing a decision made by summary or general court martial, you have the right to an attorney of your choosing. You can keep the legal services of a JAG attorney appointed by the military, or you can go outside the confines and hire an expert military criminal lawyer to further increase the strength of your appeal.
Different appeal courts in the military
When it comes to the court martial appeal process at one of the military courts of appeal, you have to be familiar with its different types, and know which one has jurisdiction over your case. There are four such courts in the military:
- Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals
- Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals
- Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals
- Army Court of Criminal Appeals
Depending on the severity of the alleged crime committed, and the sentence said crime entails, your case might be automatically reviewed by one of these appellate courts. Proposed punishments such as dishonorable discharge, one year’s confinement, officer dismissal, and death, get reviewed by one of the abovementioned courts automatically.
As for other decisions, the military appellate courts maintain discretion about wanting to take your appeal into consideration or not. One way to circumvent this is to tell your JAG lawyer to order a military court of appeals to hear your case out, but such instances rarely prove successful. Your last resort is Article 69, under which you possess the right to demand your case reviewed by the Judge Advocate General.
How court martial appeal courts actually review your case
Similar to all other appellate courts, the process of the court taking your appeal into consideration consists of many interrelated areas of inquiry. The first thing military courts of appeal will look into are any legal errors that might have occurred during the trial process.
Secondly, the court will carefully review your proposed punishment, evaluating its level, and deciding if it is adequate. Bear in mind that an appellate court can never increase your punishment, only reduce, dismiss, or uphold it.
Also, the court will investigate all the evidence presented against you in order to ascertain guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the appeal still remains unsuccessful, you can reach out to the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.
Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces process
When it comes to the scope of appeal consideration, this court is rather limited in scope. Barring appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, which takes only a handful of cases every year, and is unsurprisingly difficult to reach, this military court of appeals is the final place to have your voice heard.
Its limitations reflect in the fact that this court can only investigate mistakes of procedure made by one of the military courts of appeal. It cannot look into the evidence, the trial process, or anything else that transpired before your submitting the appeal to one of the military appellate courts.
Petitioning for clemency
At any time, throughout the duration of the process of appealing, you can request for clemency, or lenience, as it is more commonly known. By upholding your petition for clemency, portions of your sentence, or the entirety of it, can be suspended.
The court martial appeal process is a difficult one, so better hire all the legal expertise you can
Everything even remotely touching upon the system of military justice is strenuous, time-consuming, and often one-sided. You can easily get lost in the nuances of military law, struggling to get your voice across and argue your case adequately. That is why experienced military lawyers are a prerequisite of a successful trial. And, there are no better civilian experts in military law than attorneys working in Monder Criminal Lawyer Group.
Vik Monder has assembled the top guns into one place, in order to provide the best defense to those who need it. If you want to make your case as strong as it can be, contact us for a free consultation today!