Armed Forces: Court-Martial
Court-martial is the military judicial system used to try members of the armed forces for violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The UCMJ is federal law that regulates both military and civilian criminal conduct for military members. Court-martials have exclusive jurisdiction over military offenses and share joint jurisdiction with state courts over civilian criminal offenses. This means that if you are a military member and you commit an offense that violates both the UCMJ and the California Penal Code, you may be subject to trial by court-martial and/or state court. It is important to note that this is not double jeopardy; as separate sovereigns, the federal government and state government may try you for the same offense. This is why it is imperative that you are represented by a criminal defense attorney with experience handling military cases of joint jurisdiction. At Monder Law Group, we understand how military and civilian criminal court proceedings operate because we have defended our military members from prosecution by Staff Judge Advocates, U.S. Attorneys, and the District Attorney’s Office. We know what to expect and can provide you with the best defense in any jurisdiction. Let us put our experience to work for you, call San Diego Courts-Martial Military Attorney Vik Monder now at (619)405-0063.
Pretrial Court-Martial Proceedings
If you are a military member accused of violating the UCMJ, you will be brought before your commanding officer. If your CO finds that probable cause exist that you committed the offense, he or she may order you be confined for up to 72 hours. At this time, you have a right to be notified of the reason for confinement. If the CO decides to prosecute you, the court-martial proceedings will begin with preferring the charges. You will be read the charges against you in the presence of your CO and a neutral third officer. The convening authority will then decide which level of court-martial you will be tried in and assign a military judge, prosecuting attorney and defense attorney. If you are facing charges for a serious violation, you will be tried by a general court-martial. This is the highest court level and as such you have a right to have the case undergo a pretrial investigation pursuant to Article 32 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. All other court-martials will proceed straight to trial and the defense and prosecuting attorneys will be allowed to investigate the facts throughout the court-martial process.
Understanding Uniform Code of Military Justice Article 16
Pursuant to UCMJ Article 16, “the three kinds of courts-martial in each of the armed forces are General Courts-Martial, consisting of a military judge and not less than five members; or only a military judge, if before the court is assembled the accused, knowing the identity of the military judge and after consultation with defense counsel, requests orally on the record or in writing a court composed only of a military judge and the military judge approves; Special Courts-Martial, consisting of not less than three members or a military judge and not less than three members or only a military judge, if one has been detailed to the court, and the accused, under the same conditions as in general courts-martial, so requests; and Summary Courts-Martial consisting of one commissioned officer.”
Basically, court-martials are classified into three different levels, general, special, and summary court-martial. Trial by general court-martial is the highest court level, trial by special court-martial is the intermediate court level, and trial by summary court-martial is the lowest court level. The manual for court-martial provides the jurisdiction, procedure, and maximum punishment associated with each court level. Which court-martial a military member is tried in will depend on the severity of the offense alleged. All three levels of court-martials will be held to the same standard of proof, beyond a reasonable doubt.
What jurisdiction do general court-martials have?
A general court-martial has jurisdiction over all military members charged with a UCMJ offense.
What type of offenses are tried by general court-martials?
General court-martials will try the most severe offenses.
For example, murder, robbery, drug distribution, and arson cases.
Who presides over general court-martial proceedings?
A military judge will preside over general court-martials.
How are general court-martials composed?
General court-martials resemble felony civilian criminal courts; there is a military judge, a prosecuting attorney, a defense attorney, and a panel of at least five military members. The panel will be made up of commissioned officers and warrant officers. Unless, the accused is an enlisted member and demands that at least a third of the panel be enlisted members. The accused also has the option to dismiss the panel altogether and be tried by the military judge.
What is the maximum punishment by general court-martials?
General court-martials have the authority to impose any punishment authorized by the Manual for Courts-Martial. Including total forfeitures of pay and allowances, reduction to the lowest pay grade, a dishonorable discharge or a bad conduct discharge, the death penalty or confinement for life without possibility of parole.
What jurisdiction do special court-martials have?
A special court-martial has jurisdiction over all military members charged with a UCMJ offense.
What type of offenses are tried by special court-martials?
Special court-martials will try offenses of medium severity.
For example, assault, larceny, disobeying orders, and drug use cases.
Who presides over special court-martial proceedings?
A military judge will preside over special court-martials.
How are special court-martials composed?
Special court-martials resemble misdemeanor civilian criminal courts; there is a military judge, a prosecuting attorney, a defense attorney, and a panel of at least three military members. The panel will be made up of commissioned officers and warrant officers. Unless, the accused is an enlisted member and demands that at least a third of the panel be enlisted members. The accused also has the option to dismiss the panel altogether and be tried by the military judge.
What is the maximum punishment by special court-martials?
Special court-martials have the authority to impose a bad conduct discharge, reduction to the lowest pay grade, forfeiture of two-thirds pay for one year, and confinement for 12 months.
What jurisdiction do summary court-martials have?
A summary court-martial only has jurisdiction over enlisted service members.
What type of offenses are tried by summary court-martials?
Summary court-martials will try the less severe offenses.
For example, any minor incidents of misconduct.
Who presides over summary court-martial proceedings?
A commissioned officer will preside over summary court-martials; O-3’s and above.
How are summary court-martials composed?
Summary court-martials resemble Article 15 hearings; there is no panel, the accused comes before a single commissioned officer.
What is the maximum punishment by summary court-martials for E-4’s and above?
Summary court-martials have the authority to impose a reduction to the next lowest pay grade and forfeiture of two-thirds pay for one month.
What is the maximum punishment by summary court-martials for E-4’s and below?
Summary court-martials have the authority to impose a reduction to the lowest pay grade, forfeiture of two-thirds pay for one month, and confinement or hard labor without confinement for 30 days.
You have dedicated your life to this country, you should not have to spend the rest of it living with the detrimental consequences of a court-martial conviction. If you are military member under investigation or facing charges for a violation of the UCMJ, you need a military criminal defense attorney with competent understanding of how court-martials operate. Competence requires awareness of the distinctions of the three court levels, knowledge of the UCJM and California Penal Code, and experience working with both military and civilian authorities. Attorney Vik Monder has dedicated his practice to federal criminal defense and served the San Diego military community competently in court-martial, federal, state, and veterans court proceedings. For your best chance at defeating the charges against you, contact experienced courts-martial military attorney Vik Monder at (619)405-0063.
Contact San Diego Military Court-Martial Criminal Defense Attorney Vik Monder for a FREE consultation today at: 619-405-0063