Overview of the Military Justice System

As the U.S. Supreme Court noted in Parker v. Levy, the “differences between the military and civilian communities result from the fact that ‘it is the primary business of armies and navies to fight or be ready to fight wars should the occasion arise.” Id. at 743, citing United States ex rel. Toth v. Quarles, 350 U.S. 11, 17 (1955). The military is a “separate society” warranting its own military justice system. Military matters are much more complicated than civil matters, and it is crucial that they are treated as such.

 At the Kanthaka Group, our Colorado Springs military lawyers understand the unique complexities of the military legal system. As many of our legal team have been in the military, we have the personal experience that guides how we serve our clients’ military legal needs.

The Preamble to the Manual for Courts-Martial (MCM) recognizes the importance of discipline as part of military justice:

“The purpose of military law is to promote justice, to assist in maintaining good order and discipline in the armed forces, to promote efficiency and effectiveness in the military establishment, and thereby to strengthen the national security of the United States.” Manual for Courts-Martial, Preamble, I-1 (2012).

 If you find yourself in need of a military lawyer, our Colorado Springs military legal team has experience defending and guiding military personnel during their time of need. Not only does our practice draw upon the strong ethical lessons that we learned in the military, but it also has enabled our team to fight hard and relentlessly for our clients.

 Loyalty is our commitment to focus on the needs of our clients. Integrity is our dedication to competent legal representation in the service of our clients. Honor is our practice of guiding our clients to achieve their goals within the ethical bounds of the legal profession. We have worked with countless military clients to serve their unique needs, regardless of how complicated they are. We take pride in our ability to serve our military clients’ needs because we understand the situations that they have been in. It is a great privilege to work with others who have the same dedication to their country that we do.

Jurisdiction Over Military Members

In order to provide for the common defense, the Constitution gives Congress the power to raise, support, and regulate the Armed Forces. U.S. Const., Preamble, art. I, § 8, cls. 11-14 (War Power). Under this authority, Congress enacted the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) in 1950. 10 U.S.C. §§ 801-946 (Articles 1 – 146). The UCMJ is the code of military criminal law and procedure applicable to all U.S. military members worldwide.

Nonjudicial Punishment Under Article 15, UCMJ

Nonjudicial punishment (NJP) provides commanders with a prompt means of maintaining good order and discipline and promotes positive behavior changes in Service Members without the stigma of a court-martial. NJP is conducted under Article 15, UCMJ, and is not a criminal prosecution.

Types of Court-Martial

Congress, in creating the military justice system, established three types of courts-martial:

  • Summary court-martial,
  • Special court-martial, and
  • General court-martial

Article 16, UCMJ; 10 U.S.C. § 816.

Summary Court-Martial

A summary court-martial (SCM) is the least formal of the three types of courts-martial and the least protective of a soldier’s rights. The SCM is a streamlined trial process involving only one officer who theoretically performs the prosecutorial, defense counsel, judicial, and panel member (juror) functions. The purpose of this type of court-martial is to dispose promptly of relatively minor offenses. The one officer assigned to perform the various roles incumbent on the SCM must inquire thoroughly and impartially into the matter concerned to ensure that both the United States and the accused receive a fair hearing. Since the SCM is a streamlined procedure providing fewer protections and rights, the maximum possible punishment is very limited. Furthermore, it may try only enlisted personnel and only those who consent to be tried by SCM.

Special Court-Martial (Misdemeanor Court)

Special courts-martial generally try offenses that are considered misdemeanors. The formality and procedural protections are much more involved in a special court-martial as opposed to a summary court-martial. Convening authorities can refer a case to two types of special courts-martial: those consisting of a military judge and four members (although the accused can later elect to trial by military judge alone); and those consisting of a military judge alone.

General Court-Martial (Felony Court)

A general court-martial is the highest trial level in military law and is reserved for the most serious offenses. It is characterized as a felony court and may try anyone subject to the UCMJ, including; enlisted members, warrant officers, and commissioned officers.

Contact our Colorado Springs Military Lawyers Today

Our Colorado Springs veteran lawyers have significant experience in handling courts-martial, reprimands, separation boards, and investigations. Kanthaka Group is a law practice and business consulting organization based on time-honored legal practices and ethical principles. We seek to build a solid relationship with you (our client) to help you achieve your goals and minimize the difficulty you face. By standing with you today, our military lawyers seek to guide you to a better tomorrow.

Our Colorado Springs lawyers take a pragmatic view when studying your situation and determining a course to follow for a positive resolution. We believe that ethical, yet strong and aggressive advocacy yields the best results in all endeavors. By combining compassion, solid research, and persuasive arguments with determined effort and mindfulness, Kanthaka’s professionals are able to resolve issues for our clients. For thoughtful and informed legal guidance, contact our Colorado Springs military lawyers for an initial consultation or call us at (719)-633-2222.

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