If you are a member of the military and have been accused of a crime, you could be in a very serious situation. As the civilian criminal system varies greatly from the military system, you need to be aware of certain aspects of your case.
Most people are aware of what happens when a civilian is accused of a crime. They understand the possible penalties for a misdemeanor or felony and know that they could be facing jail or prison time as well as fines. However, what happens when the individual accused of a crime is a member of the Armed Forces? Are there any differences in the justice process or in the penalties? There is no quick answer to this question except that the military criminal process is very different. If you or a loved one were accused of a crime while in serving in the military, it is important that you know what to expect. It is also important that you have a strong legal representative on your side who have experience in military law. It takes a skilled and knowledgeable professional to be able to handle these types of cases.
The criminal system in the military is governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). This was established in 1950 in order to create a standardized way of dealing with offenses committed by military personnel. It has been in effect since 1951 and applies not only to those on active duty, but military academies, prisoners of war, and sometimes those who are in the reserves. The UCMJ deals with crimes such as murder, rape, theft, and more. However, it also covers crimes that are specific to the military. Absence without leave, desertion, and other war crimes can lead to serious consequences. In fact, most cases that are tried in courts-martial involve absence without leave.
The UCMJ also provides regulations regarding the trial process. Known as courts-martial, they are set up to try as well as sentence members of the military who have allegedly committed a crime. Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, there are three separate types of courts-martial. The first is the summary court-martial. This is only able to try non-capital offenses and the penalties that they are allowed to inflict depend on the pay grade of the offender. The maximum punishments that can be inflicted from this court-martial is 1 month of confinement, 45 days of hard labor, loss of two-thirds of pay for one month, and other restrictions. They could also lower the individual’s pay grade to the lowest section, E-1. Even though the accused does not have the right to an attorney, they do have the right to refuse to be tried by a summary court-martial and have the right to defend themselves at the trial.
The next type of court-martial is the special court-martial. This trial consists of a military judge and three other members. However, if the accused requests it, he or she can be tried by a judge solely. The special court-martial is similar to the misdemeanor court. It does not judge the most serious crimes but can try any person that is subject to the UCMF. They are not allowed to impose punishments like death, dishonorable discharge, or confinement or forfeiture of pay for more than one year. The last type of court-martial is the general court-martial. This trial has to have at least five members as well as a military judge, unless otherwise requested by the accused. This trial is similar to a felony court as it tries the most serious offenses. As they try the most serious cases, they are able to inflict the death penalty should the crime deserve it. If you are facing a court-martial or have questions about the Uniform Code of Military Justice, you should contact a legal representative for counsel and defense as soon as possible.