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Court-Martial
Military Court System

General courts-martial are the military’s felony courts and this court may award any punishment authorized by the UCMJ and the Rules for Courts-Martial. The court has jurisdiction over both officer and enlisted service members. Similar to a special court-martial, they are also presided over by a military judge and governed by the Military Rules for Court-Martial and Evidence. A general courts-martial, however, must comprise a panel with at least five service members selected by the officer convening the court. Like a special court-martial, you may request trial by a military judge alone.

Similar to special courts-martial, the general court-martial process begins when your chain of command, with the assistance of the JAG office, determines a court-martial is appropriate for the charges. Unlike, a special court-martial, charges may not be brought before a general court-martial without a preliminary investigation under Article 32. The Article 32 investigation is a hearing which determines whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant trial by court-martial. After the Article 32 hearing, the investigating officer will recommend whether your case should proceed to a general court-martial, be dismissed or moved to a lower court. After receiving the recommendation, if chosen, the case can proceed to general court-martial within five days.

Summary Court-Martial

Summary courts-martial are restricted to enlisted service members. Penalties are restricted to one reduction in a pay grade, 30 days of incarceration and a fine of one half month’s pay. Although not entitled to appointed counsel, service members may hire civilian counsel of their choosing. A summary court-martial comprises one commissioned officer who acts as judge, prosecutor and defense in the proceeding.

During a summary court-martial, the judge inquiries into both sides of the case, protecting the interests of both the defense and the prosecution, and impartially deciding the case.

An enlisted person facing criminal charges has the right to refuse trial by summary court-martial. In some circumstances, you may hire a civilian defense counsel to represent you. During the summary court-martial, your court-martial lawyer will have the right to cross-examine witnesses, call witnesses, produce evidence, testify under oath, remain silent and raise motions.

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Special Court-Martial

If you refuse trial by summary court-martial, your command has the option to try your case as a special court-martial or general court-martial instead. Special courts-martial are misdemeanor courts and have jurisdiction over both officer and enlisted personnel. The court is presided over by a military judge, and is composed of at least three active-duty members forming the military equivalent of a jury. If desired, you may request trial by a military judge alone. 

Conduct of the trial is governed by the Military Rules for Court-Martial and Evidence. For enlisted service members, special courts-martial may impose up to one year of confinement, forfeiture of all pay allowances, a reduction in rate to the lowest enlisted pay grade, and a Bad Conduct Discharge. For officers, the court is limited to a letter of reprimand as punishment.

The special court-martial process begins when your chain of command, with the assistance of the JAG office, determines a court-martial is appropriate for the charges. If the commander determines that the case should proceed to special court-martial then the proceedings begin with the appointment of active duty service members to serve as the court-martial panel and the referral of charges to them. Unlike a general court-martial, a pre-trial investigation is not required prior to commencing trial. Once the charges are referred to a special court-martial, the case can begin within three days. An accused service member has the same procedural rights at a special court-martial as at a general court-martial.

General Court-Martial

General courts-martial are the military’s felony courts and this court may award any punishment authorized by the UCMJ and the Rules for Courts-Martial. The court has jurisdiction over both officer and enlisted service members. Similar to a special court-martial, they are also presided over by a military judge and governed by the Military Rules for Court-Martial and Evidence. A general courts-martial, however, must comprise a panel with at least five service members selected by the officer convening the court.

Like a special court-martial, you may request trial by a military judge alone. Similar to special courts-martial, the general court-martial process begins when your chain of command, with the assistance of the JAG office, determines a court-martial is appropriate for the charges. Unlike, a special court-martial, charges may not be brought before a general court-martial without a preliminary investigation under Article 32. The Article 32 investigation is a hearing which determines whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant trial by court-martial. After the Article 32 hearing, the investigating officer will recommend whether your case should proceed to a general court-martial, be dismissed or moved to a lower court. After receiving the recommendation, if chosen, the case can proceed to general court-martial within five days.

Article 32 Investigation & Hearing

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We represent all soldiers, airmen, sailors, and coasties stationed at Fort Drum, Fort Stewart, Fort Stewart, Fort Bragg, Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), Ft. Campbell, Fort Benning, Ft Bliss, Camp Pendleton, Camp LeJune, Schofield Barracks, Norfolk Naval Station, Fort Sam Houston, Iraq, Quantico, Japan, Germany, Afghanistan, or South Korea; veterans living in New York, Alaska Washington, D.C., Chicago, Detroit, San Diego, Miami, Los Angeles, Dallas, Seattle, San Antonio, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Salt Lake, Columbus, Hawaii, Boston, Denver or any other location in the United States or across the globe.a