Consequences of a Military Court Martial

The Uniform Code of Military Justice is a set of laws and regulations. These laws are those that govern military members. These laws are pretty complex and strict. If military members get a conviction violating any, there are consequences.

A court-martial is convened to determine what the consequence will be. A court-martial is like a court trial for civilians. According to the UCMJ, there are three types of court martials. It is essential to know them to understand the consequences of each offense.

Types of Court-Martial

These types of court-martial differ according to the type of offenses involved. They also differ according to their respective consequences. The three types of court-martial include:

1. Summary Court-Martial

A summary court-martial involves only one commissioned officer. This officer plays the role of the judge and jury.  A summary court-martial involves cases with enlisted personnel for less severe offenses. In this court-martial, the accused has the right to cross-examine witnesses. The accused can also produce evidence, testify or remain silent.

There is always a need for the accused to get a court martial attorney to defend them. The offender does not have the right to a free military attorney; he will have to hire court martial attorneys for the proceedings.

2. General Court-Martial

A general court-martial consists of a panel and a military judge. The panel usually consists of not less than five members. The accused may be tried by a military judge alone on their request. In this case, enlisted members can also request that the panel be made up of enlisted personnel.

A general court-martial is also known as a felony court. It may try anyone subject to the UCMJ. The court can try enlisted members, officers, and midshipmen. The accused in a general court-martial can choose free military attorney representation. They may also hire their civilian lawyer.

3. Special Court-Martial

A special court-martial is also known as a misdemeanor court. Anyone subject to the UCMJ can face this type of court-martial. Those subject to a court-martial include personnel like enlisted members, officers, and midshipmen.

A special court-martial involves a jury of not less than three members and a military judge. Sometimes, the trial may involve a military judge alone at the accused’s request. 

The accused may request that the panel should consist of enlisted personnel. This request is possible only if the accused is an enlisted member. The panel may consist of at least one-third of enlisted personnel.

The accused may choose to exercise their right to be represented by a free military attorney. If he wishes, he can also hire a civilian lawyer.

Consequences of Court-Martial Cases

According to the UCMJ, there are 8 consequences for different offenses. These punishments include:

1. Punitive Discharge

A punitive discharge is a separation from military service. There are two types of punitive discharge. These are the Bad Conduct and the Dishonorable Discharge.

Bad conduct is separation from service under honorable conditions, while dishonorable is under dishonorable conditions.

2. Hard Labor Without Confinement

This punishment involves hard work that the offender must perform. The offender will perform this work for some time as charged by the court-martial. Without confinement means that the offender will not be kept in prison. 

3. Restriction 

This punishment may involve confinement or restriction to a particular area. This restriction usually lasts for at least 60 days. It means the offender cannot exercise his rights of free movement for that period.

4. Reduction in Grade

This punishment is a reduction or demotion in rank. The offender may have to join a lower military unit or service for some time.

5. Fine Payment

Fine payment is a penalty of money that a court-martial makes the offender pay as punishment. The amount of a fine depends on the offense and type of court-martial.

6. Forfeitures

Forfeiture involves having to go without pay or/and allowances. It usually lasts for the entire period of the punishment. The offender cannot receive any salary or allowance. Forfeitures usually last for at most six months. In some cases, the dependents of the accused may receive the pay.

7. Reprimands

Reprimands are usually in the form of letters. The judge addresses this letter to the superior of the offender. A letter of reprimand provides details of the offense and its consequences.  A copy of the letter is usually kept on record in case the offender commits another offense.

8. Capital Punishment

This consequence is the death penalty. Although it is not common, an offender may pay for a crime with his life. Capital punishment is usually when the offense is a serious crime.

Consequences According to Types of Court Martial

The punishment depends on the type of court-martial involved. The types of punishment are:

1. General Court-Martial Consequences

In General Court-martial, military members face a wide range of consequences. Some of these punishments include:

  • Confinement
  • Reprimand
  • Loss of all pay and allowances
  • Reduction to the lowest pay grade
  • Punitive discharge (bad-conduct discharge or dishonorable discharge)
  • Restrictions
  • Fines
  • Capital punishment. 

The presiding judge determines the punishment the offender will be given.

2. Summary Court-Court-Martial Consequences

The consequences that result from a summary court-martial include:

  • 30 days confinement
  • 45 days of hard labor without confinement
  • 45 days of restrictions 
  • Loss of 67% pay for one month
  • Reduction to a lower pay grade

Service members above an E-4 in pay grade cannot receive confinement or hard labor. They can only get a demotion to the next lowest pay grade.

3. Special Court-Martial Consequences

The highest forms of punishment in special Court martial include:

  • 1 year of Confinement
  • 3 months of hard labor without confinement
  • Loss of 67% pay for up to one year 
  • Reduction in pay grade
  • Punitive bad-conduct discharge.

Offenses That Lead to a Court-Martial

There are several types of court-martial offenses; some of them include:

1. Desertion

Desertion happens when an officer abandons duty or their post without permission. The deserter usually leaves with the intention of not returning.

2. Absence without Leave

Absence without leave is failing to be at the appointed place of duty at the right time.

3. Insubordinate Conduct

The act of a junior officer treating a superior officer with disrespect or contempt is an act of insubordination 

4. Mutiny and Sedition

Mutiny or sedition is the refusal to obey lawful orders or perform duties from a superior. It is usually with the intent to override military authorities.

5. Malingering

The offender does this during military duties. It involves faking a mental or physical illness. It could also involve intentionally hurting oneself. 

Appealing a Court-Martial

If the accused believes that the military judge made an error, he can appeal. The accused may appeal the outcome of a court-martial to the military court of appeals. The court will revisit the case and pass the final judgment.

In cases where it is the death penalty, there is an automatic court-martial appeal. The accused can hire a UCMJ attorney to appeal on his behalf.


As military personnel, it is essential to know these things. This knowledge will help you avoid actions that have such punishments. It also helps you know your rights to avoid unlawful consequences. 

Regardless of how much you learn about the subject, though, going through with an appeal by yourself is not the best option. You can secure the services of court-martial attorneys and get the right representation if you find yourself in such a position.

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