Military trials or courts-martial can be very stressful experiences. A military defense attorney may be appointed free of charge, particularly in cases that will be tried in the higher levels of courts-martial, but a military law attorney can significantly strengthen your defense.Service persons standing accused of crimes should consider the severity of the charges being brought against them in order to determine the most effective defense strategy.
Legal Options for the Three Levels of Courts-Martial
Military courts are an integral part of the broader military legal system. There are three levels or degrees of courts-martial: a summary court-martial for minor infractions, a special court-martial for more serious infractions, and a general court-martial that can have far-reaching consequences. Understanding the levels of court-martial may help a service member plan their defense and determine whether they need to obtain civilian military legal counsel.
A summary court-martial is the least intensive type of military trial. Depending on the branch of service, the court may not appoint an attorney free of charge for cases tried on this level. The punishments at this level are fairly limited. A court martial attorney can provide counsel in these cases so that a service person does not run the risk of representing themselves.
More serious cases may be tried in a special court-martial. The phases and processes of a special court-martial may resemble civilian trials more than cases tried at the informal and streamlined summary level. Though an attorney may be appointed, a capable and qualified military law attorney can potentially achieve better outcomes like the reduction of a sentence or avoiding a bad conduct discharge. If the accused party is still enlisted, they might be able to influence the composition of the panel or jury or choose to have the case heard only by the judge. The right attorney can help determine which strategies are most likely to have desirable outcomes.
A general court-martial is the highest court in the military justice system. This level of court-martial can result in more severe penalties including prolonged confinement, restrictions, or even dismissal for bad or dishonorable conduct. It is advisable to build the strongest defense possible for cases being tried on this level by relying on the services of a successful court martial attorney.
Choosing a Civilian Defense Attorney
A service person facing any level of court-martial may want to fortify their defense with an experienced military law attorney. Past experience in the military legal system can be invaluable. The best military attorneys should have successfully defended clients on all levels of military court. A civilian military attorney is no longer active in the military legal system, a circumstance that may allow for a more independent perspective when it comes to courts-martial defense.
Service people accused of crimes should seek a lawyer with a military background and a record of successful defense. It may be possible to strengthen your defense by seeking the services of a skilled attorney with a proven track record. A civilian military attorney can be one of the best options for navigating through the difficult investigation and court-martial process.