Those pursuing a military career are subject not only to state and federal laws but also military rules. Servicemembers can face career consequences for convictions in civilian court. However, especially for those who spend much of their life on base, there is also the risk of facing serious allegations in a court-martial scenario.
Typically, servicemembers only risk general court-martial proceedings if the offense involved is comparable to a felony. There are different ranks of court-martial, with general court-martial being the most involved and serious.
A general court-martial involves a panel of at least five members and a military judge or just a military judge depending on the request of the defendant. The possible penalties for a general court-martial include dishonorable discharge, incarceration, forfeiture of pay and hard labor without confinement. Even death is possible in extreme cases.
Military service members have the right to defend themselves
In a general court-martial scenario, the servicemember facing accusations has the right to defend themselves. An attorney familiar with military criminal justice can help. Although lower-level court-martial hearings don’t entitle someone to representation, a general court-martial does.
Not just any defense attorney should have the job of representing you during a court-martial. While the basic analysis of evidence is the same in civilian and military courts, the rules and procedures are different. Having the right help is crucial to mounting a successful defense.
A familiar with the military justice process attorney can help you prevent your own evidence, question those serving as witnesses and raise doubts about the allegations that led to the court-martial.
There are other adverse actions possible as well
Facing a court-martial is only one of the possible consequences of criminal accusations while serving in the military. You could also face other adverse actions that could have a lasting impact on your future career opportunities, even administrative discharge from your position.
Especially if you aim to move up the chain of command or serve in the military until you retire, you may need to look at every potential adverse action as a threat to your career, even if discharge isn’t possible. Thinking about how to defend yourself when facing military disciplinary action can help you avoid lasting consequences or damage to your professional prospects.