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The Process of Court Martial Explained
Facing charges as a member of the military implies that the process awaiting you resembles that of a civilian trial, but also differs in certain aspects characteristic to the service.
The first step in such situations is to research a reliable law office in San Diego composed of seasoned military defense lawyers and capable of providing expertise-based defense. However, it’s also essential that you acquaint yourself with the characteristics of the court martial process and understand how it works.
What is the court martial process like?
While there are three different types of court martial, the process that each of them follows is the same and it consists of three main stages which closely track civilian procedures, apart from several crucial differences:
The member of the service who has violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is brought before their commanding officer (CO). If there’s probable cause for the CO to believe a violation has occurred, they may order service member apprehension and confinement for up to 72 hours.
During that time, the CO makes a decision on how to proceed and they must notify the accused of the reason for their apprehension. The CO can decide not to proceed to court martial and impose a “non-judicial” punishment to which the member has the right to appeal if they believe it’s unjust.
If, however, the CO chooses to proceed to court martial, they must do it within 120 days from the moment of apprehension. The process begins with “preferring charges” – when the charges are read to the accused in the presence of a CO and a neutral third officer.
Both the prosecution and the accused can investigate the facts regarding the case, conduct depositions, and review documents. As opposed to a civilian process, the investigation may go on during any stage of the process.
After reading the charges, the accused service member can enter the plea. In case they pleads guilty, the military judge will only accept it if they conclude the accused fully understands the charges and the consequences, and if the prosecution isn’t seeking the death penalty. When the judge accepts the plea, the process will continue to sentencing the accused.
Proceeding to trial
In case the accused pleads not guilty, the court continues the process and chooses a panel that will decide the facts. The panel members typically consist of COs of a higher rank and from a different unit than the accused, but can also include the enlisted members of the service requested by the accused. Members of the panel can’t be disciplined for their findings.
Just as in civilian trials, both sides can cross-examine witnesses and present evidence. The judge must first instruct panel members on the applicable law, after which the panel may issue a decision. In case it finds the accused guilty, either the military judge or the panel will issue a sentence according to the UCMJ guidelines.
Where in San Diego can I hire an experienced military defense lawyer?
Understanding how the court martial procedure works and what rights you’re entitled to during the proceedings is essential for creating an efficient defense strategy, but so is opting for a reputable court martial lawyer. With Monder Criminal Lawyer Group, you can rest easy knowing that your case will be taken with utmost dedication and care. Our experienced attorneys have the necessary knowledge and skills to successfully defend you at court.
Allow yourself some refreshing moments at the Marian Bear Memorial Park to clear your thoughts before visiting our office and telling us all about your case.