What are the 3 types of courts-martial?

If you are in the military, you undoubtedly understand the importance of following the Uniform Code of Military Justice. After all, as points out, the UCMJ is a federal law that applies to all members of the armed services plus activated National Guard and Reserve troops. Students at military institutions must also comply with the UCMJ.

You probably also know that violating the UCMJ may lead to a court-martial. Still, you may not realize there are three distinct types of courts-martial.

1. A summary court-martial

The lowest level and least serious type of court-martial is a summary one. With a summary court-martial, enlisted members of the armed services appear for discipline for minor offenses before a commissioned officer.

Even though there is no military judge or Judge Advocate General attorney present at a summary court-martial, the service member may face the following types of discipline:

  • Confinement up to one month
  • Hard labor for up to a month and a half
  • Movement restriction for up to two months
  • Reduction in pay for up to one month
  • Reduction in rank

2. A special court-martial

For offenses that are more serious, service members must attend special courts-martial. With a special court-martial, which looks much like a civilian trial, a military judge presides. Usually, both the accused and the prosecution have an attorney, and a three-service-member panel decides the facts.

The following discipline is possible with a special court-martial:

  • Confinement up to one year
  • Forfeiture of pay for up to six months
  • Hard labor for up to three months
  • Discharge for bad conduct

3. A general court-martial

The military reserves general courts-martial for top-level offenses. Those facing a general court-martial appear with an attorney before a judge. Then, a five- or ten-member panel determines guilt or innocence. Upon conviction, a servicemember may face the harshest penalties the UCMJ allows, possibly including the following:

  • Death
  • Imprisonment up to life
  • Dishonorable discharge

Ultimately, because the military has experienced attorneys who know how to try cases and secure convictions, it is critical to explore your legal options as early in the court-martial process as possible.