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About Military Criminal Justice

Once someone joins the United States military, they are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), which was created by Congress following World War II. Before the enactment of the UCMJ, service members were disciplined under the Articles of War, which was criticized for being unfair.

Today’s UCMJ is a standardized system for criminal justice, which applies to all branches in the Armed Services. Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, crimes and their corresponding penalties are clearly defined, as well as an appeals process for courts-martial convictions.

Many of the crimes addressed in civilian criminal law, such as assault and murder are also contained within the UCMJ Criminal Code. Additionally, the UCMJ covers military-specific crimes, such as insubordination and AWOL.

Similar to civilian criminal law, military criminal law provides protections for service members, including the right to a civilian criminal defense attorney, the right to refuse to answer questions without an attorney present, the right not to be subject to an unreasonable search and seizure, and the right to a fair trial and to file an appeal.

Article 15 (Non-Judicial Punishment)

Most service members who get into trouble are subject to non-judicial punishment, which is commonly referred to an Article 15. Article 15s are frequently the disciplinary method of choice by commanders because they do not involve criminal proceedings.

When an Article 15 is imposed, it does not lead to a criminal record and sometimes it’s eventually removed from the military’s database. Any service member facing an Article 15 has the right to a military defense attorney before they accept or refuse an Article 15. The service member also has the right to refuse an Article 15 and instead have a trial by court-marital.

In these scenarios, the service member has more procedural rights afforded to him or her, but they also risk a more severe punishment if adjudicated guilty and they face the possibility of a criminal record.

Three Types of Courts-Martial

Court-trials are very similar to criminal trials in the civilian court system. The three types of courts-martial, include:

  • Summary courts-martials (for Article 15s)
  • Summary courts-martials (for minor offenses)
  • General courts-martials (for serious offenses)

Special court-martial convictions are punishable by: a bad conduct discharge, up to one year incarceration, or a full reduction in grade. On the other hand, general court-martial convictions are punishable by a dishonorable discharge, up to life in prison, and in serious cases, the death penalty.

If a service member is convicted and it results in a negative discharge or imprisonment for a year or longer, the service member has a right to file an appeal with the Court of Criminal Appeals.

If you are searching for a military criminal defense attorney in Plano, Dallas or Fort Worth, contact The Zendeh Del Law Firm, PLLC for a case evaluation!