Courts-martial in the United States
Courts-martial in the United States are
criminal trials conducted by the U.S. military.
Most commonly, courts-martial are convened
to try members of the U.S. military for viola-
tions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice,
which is the U.S. military’s criminal code.
However, they can also be convened for oth-
er purposes, including military tribunals and
the enforcement of martial law in an occu-
pied territory. Courts-martial are governed
by the rules of procedure and evidence laid
out in the Manual for Courts-Martial and Mil-
itary Rules of Evidence, respectively.
Courts-martial are adversarial proceed-
ings, as are all United States criminal courts.
That is, lawyers representing the government
and the accused present the facts, legal as-
pects, and arguments most favorable to each
side; a military judge determines questions of
law, and the members of the panel (or milit-
ary judge in a judge-alone case) determine
questions of fact.
Types of court-martial
tial—summary, special and general. A con-
viction at a general court-martial is equival-
ent to a civilian conviction in a federal dis-
trict court. Special court-martials are con-
sidered "federal misdemeanor courts" be-
longer than one year. Summary court-mar-
tials have no civilian equivalent.
Trial by summary court-martial provides a
simple procedure for resolution of charges of
relatively minor misconduct committed by
enlisted members of
the military. The
summary court-martial consists of one indi-
vidual, typically a judge advocate. That one
officer acts both as prosecuting attorney and
defense counsel. The maximum punishment
at a summary court martial varies with the
accused’s paygrade. If the accused is in the
pay grade of E-4 or below, he or she can be
sentenced to 30 days of confinement, reduc-
tion to pay grade E-1, or restriction for 60
days. Punishments for servicemembers in
paygrades E-5 and higher are similar, exc