When you join a branch of the United States military, you agree to abide by not just federal, state and local laws, but also by the unique laws that govern the military. Military law in many ways is far stricter than civilian law.
For example, military members can still face court-martial and punishments if they conduct an extramarital affair while serving as an active duty member of the military. Although civilians can divorce, military members have to worry about career consequences, while also dealing with a comparatively high marriage failure rate because of the demands from their jobs.
A court-martial can mean the end of your military career, as well as other penalties, including incarceration. As with standard criminal law, those facing allegations related to the violation of military law have the right to a defense.
What is a court-martial?
The term court-martial refers to any military court or tribunal. There are multiple kinds of court-martial, ranging from the most serious, known as a general court-martial, as well as special and summary court-martial cases.
The severity of the alleged offense will impact what kind of court-martial a military member faces. Regardless of the type, however, any military member facing a court-martial has the right to a private defense attorney.
You can select a judge or a jury trial in most cases
Like with civilian courts, military courts offer defendants the option of either having a jury of their peers hear the case or allowing a judge to be the party who makes the decision. Depending on the details of your case, one or other may be a better strategy for your situation. However, it’s important to know that if the offense could incur the death penalty, trial by jury is the only option available in that situation.
A conviction can affect your freedom and your career
As with civilian criminal courts, military court convictions can have a protracted impact on the life of the defendant. They may wind up incarcerated for some time. They could also face serious career consequences.
These might include a dishonorable discharge from the military, which will make it incredibly difficult to secure a good job in the future. Combine that discharge with the criminal record that will result from a conviction, and it’s easy to see how a court-martial could have a long-term effect on your happiness and your financial stability.
Defend yourself after defending others
Not all attorneys understand the unique concerns of military law. To give yourself the best chance at beating the charges you face, consider working with an experienced criminal defense attorney who has worked in military law or assisted people in defending themselves against a court-martial in the past.