Potential penalties from a summary court-martial

On Behalf of | Sep 1, 2023 | Military Family Law |

When you face a summary court-martial, you should understand the potential penalties for conviction before the proceedings. The more you know about the possible penalties, the easier it is to prepare in advance. The decisions made during a summary court-martial can significantly impact your military career and future.

There are several potential penalties to consider.

Rank reduction

One common result of a summary court-martial is rank reduction. Upon conviction, you might receive a demotion to a lower rank, which results in changes to your responsibilities, pay grade and authority. This can have a lasting impact on your advancement opportunities.

Pay forfeiture

Some summary court-martial convictions result in pay forfeiture. This happens in a couple of ways. You might have a portion of your pay withheld for a defined period, or you might receive an overall reduction in your pay grade.

Extra duties

In some cases, extra work duties serve as a punitive order. For soldiers retained on active duty following the courts-martial, you must complete your daily responsibilities in addition to those extra duties.


Some court-martials lead to confinement orders. The duration of the confinement varies based on the offense, though summary courts-martial typically lead to shorter confinement periods than general courts-martial cases.

The Judge Advocate General’s office reported 68 convictions from 69 summary courts-martial in 2021. Soldiers facing court-martial should understand the risks and the odds so they can better prepare for the hearing. Although the summary court-martial traditionally applies for lesser infractions, the penalties resulting from conviction are significant.