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Senior non commissioned officer wins court martial

Posted on December 03, 2010 3:00 AM EST

A senior non-commissioned officer rolled the dice at a summary a court-martial and came away with not guilty verdicts on all charges and specifications. The defendant was charged with disrespect to a commissioned officer, indecent language, and three counts of violating the general article by using inappropriate language toward lower enlisted personnel. After a daylong trial, the Miami criminal lawyers representing the accused secured an acquittal on all charges. Four witnesses appeared on behalf of the government. The Miami military lawyers relied on a lack of evidence and the outstanding service record of the defendant.

A summary court-martial is composed of one commissioned officer currently serving on active duty. This type of courts-martial is similar to a bench trial in the civilian world. More serious types of courts-martial are of the general and the special variety which allows for an actual jury or panel to determine the guilt or innocence of a military serviceman. The military rules of evidence apply in all courts-martial. The military rules of evidence are almost similar to the rules of evidence used in state and federal court trials. A service member has the right to refuse to be tried at a summary court-martial and demand that the case be heard in front of a panel.

The downside in declining a summary court-martial is that the potential penalties increase with the other forms of trial. The maximum punishment for a service member found guilty at a summary court-martial is as follows: if a soldier or sailor is an E-4 or below, the punishment can include confinement for 45 days, reduction in rank, restriction for two months and a forfeiture of pay. If the serviceman is an E-5 or above, the defendant cannot be sentenced to confinement, but can have his or her rank reduced, and is subject to restriction and loss of pay. More importantly, a conviction at a summary court-martial will allow the chain of command to administratively separate or kick out a military member.

A summary court-martial is not as complex as a general or special courts-martial and can usually be concluded within a day. Although not as complex, military law, such as motion practice will be applied in this setting. Summary courts-martial apply to all branches of the military service including the army, navy, air force, marines and coast guard. A defendant at a summary court-martial can choose to represent themselves, but they have the right to hire private counsel to defend the case as long as it does not unreasonably delay the trial. Anyone facing any type of courts-martial should seek the advice of and retain a private qualified military lawyer to defend the charges as a conviction can result in confinement and certainly a discharge from the military.
Categories: Military Law