Military Crimes

Crimes alleged against a member of the armed forces are governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). In the military, punishment is separated into 3 categories: 1) Non-judicial punishment, which is governed by Article 15 of the UCMJ; 2) Administrative punishment which may be akin to a firing which is adjudicated by a 3-member panel; or 3) Courts-martial, which themselves are separated into 3 categories depending on the severity of the crime or punishment.

Summary courts-martial are typically convened by a battalion commander, usually the rank of major or Lieutenant Colonel. Like the name suggests, summary courts-martial are meant to quickly dispose of military charges. Because summary courts-martial are light on procedural protections, the accused can refuse a summary court-martial and request either a special or general courts-martial. As a result, summary courts-martial are typically used where the evidence is overwhelming and the propriety of the charges are undisputed.

Special courts-martial are typically convened by a brigade commander, usually the rank of Colonel. A special-court martial is the intermediate level court-martial, typically employed where the crime charged has a maximum punishment of less than one year confinement, or where the accused has previously refused an Article 15 or summary court-martial.

General courts-martial are reserved for the most serious offenses, and as such, they must typically be convened by a general officer of a command. General-courts-martial afford the greatest procedural protections of the bunch. An enlisted accused is entitled to have a panel composed of not less than one third enlisted if he so requests, the accused is entitled to an Article 32 investigation which has the same purpose as a civilian grand-jury indictment, and those convictions that result in confinement of over a year or a punitive discharge are afforded an automatic appeal.

If you are a service member who is facing any of the above proceedings it is important that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to ensure that your rights are looked after. Mr. Terrell is a member of the California Army National Guard who used to work with the prosecution in conducting courts-martial. As such, he knows that it takes a skilled attorney to mitigate any harm that may come to your military career if you are facing criminal charges.

The information contained on this website represents opinion only and is not intended to, nor should be relied on as legal advice of any kind. Should you wish to consult with an attorney, contact an attorney at the Law Office of Jesse Terrell at (323) 638-4712.
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