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What Are the Three Types of Court Martial?
If you’re looking for the best military criminal attorney San Diego knows, you’re probably facing a court martial. It’s a draining process, and hiring a great attorney is not all you should do. You need to become familiar with every aspect of the entire process of court martial proceedings, i.e. the types of court martial, the potential punishments in a court martial, as well as the appellate court martial system. Let us start from the beginning, and explain the three types of court martial first.
Summary court martial
The first among the three types of court martial is summary court martial. To put it in layman terms, this is the “least serious” among the courts martial, as it is responsible for minor offenses. The underlying principle of summary court martial is simple procedure which ensures proper inquiry into the sides of the case, safeguarding both the accused and the Government.
Summary court martial can only adjudicate minor offenses made by enlisted members of the military. This type of court martial does not have jurisdiction over greater offenses, nor can it try warrant officers, commissioned officers, midshipmen, or aviation cadets. Only noncapital offenses go before a summary court martial.
A summary court martial consist of a single commissioned officer, and he or she doesn’t necessarily have to be trained in law. The accused party has to agree to proceedings. If the accused party should refuse, a trial can then be passed on to one of the other two types of court martial – special court martial or general court martial.
In case the defendant consents to summary court martial proceedings, he or she waves the right to a JAG attorney. However, the accused can always choose to hire a civilian attorney who specializes in military law, only to ensure best possible court martial defense.
Special court martial
The second among the three types of court martial is special court martial. Offenses that end up before a special court martial are usually misdemeanors. The overall process of proceedings is much more serious when compared to summary court martial, including procedural protections and formalities. However, although special court martial mainly tries misdemeanors, it can also hold jurisdiction over capital offenses, proscribed by governing rules of courts martial.
Being the intermediate-level court martial reflects in the composition of special court martial compared to summary court martial. It can consist of only a military judge, a military judge and thee members alongside, or no fewer than three members without a military judge. It is extremely rare to hold a special court martial without the presence of a judge, but the composition can vary depending on the crime tried.
The defendant can choose what composition of special court martial he or she would prefer to face. In case of choosing a trial by a military judge alone, it is that one person who is responsible for reaching a sentence. However, it the defendant chooses a trial by the three members, a two-thirds majority is needed in order to pass a sentence. There are never “hung juries” in any of the three types of court martial.
As for representation, the defendant can opt for a JAG attorney appointed by the Government, or for hiring a civilian lawyer well-versed in military law at his or her own expense. Going for a civilian military attorney is always a great option, as it is advisable to have legal representation independent from the military system.
General court martial
This present the highest level of trial among the three types of court martial. General court martial convenes only for the most serious of offenses committed while in active military service. That is why, if facing a general court martial, you need to do all in your power to secure strongest possible defense, including hiring a seasoned civilian military lawyer to work alongside your appointed JAG attorney.
General court martial is able to try all servicemen. Before a general court martial convenes, the military must conduct a pretrial investigation, in order to establish basis for prosecution. The officer in charge of this investigation has to be with a rank of no lower than major, or an officer with adequate legal training.
This is where good legal representation should step in. The accused has the ability to thoroughly examine all the evidence, cross-examine all witnesses, present witnesses of his or her own, as well as arguments and evidence. Although it is allowed for the defendant to do all of this alone, legal representation is advisable at this stage.
The composition of the highest of all the three types of court martial can also vary, depending on the seriousness of the crime. It can consist of only a judge, or a judge and no fewer than five members of the jury. Again, the defendant can choose the general court martial composition. However, when it comes to capital cases, the defendant has to be tried by the five members. In some cases, the defendant can be tried by as many as twelve members.
Similar to special court martial trials, the defendant is appointed a JAG attorney, but he or she can choose to opt for additional civilian legal representation. As we have already said, calling in reinforcements in form of an experienced civilian military attorney is a good idea, especially for the more serious offenses.
Now you’re familiar with the types of court martial, it’s time to consider legal representation
And, if you’re thinking about securing the best possible defense for your court martial case by hiring a civilian lawyer who has specialized in military law, Monder Criminal Lawyer Group should be your first stop. Vik Monder has worked hard to assemble his superstar team of civilian military lawyers, and we are sure you will find the finest legal representation at our firm. Contact us today for a free consultation!