When can a service member be tried at court-martial?

On Behalf of | Feb 24, 2024 | Military Law

The military employs a distinct system of justice to maintain order and uphold standards. As such, service members are required to uphold the highest standards of discipline and conduct both on and off duty per the requirements of the military’s broad approach to regulations and infractions thereof.

A service member can be tried at court-martial when they are suspected of committing a serious offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). These offenses can include, but are not limited to, the following.

Dereliction of duty

Serving in the military calls for a steadfast commitment to duty, which includes following orders, maintaining readiness, and ensuring the safety and well-being of fellow service members and the mission. Dereliction of duty occurs when a service member neglects or fails to fulfill their responsibilities, whether it be in performing assigned tasks, adhering to regulations, or properly supervising subordinates.

Absence without leave

Commonly referred to as going AWOL, absence from duty without proper leave is a serious offense in the military. When a service member goes AWOL, they abandon their post without authorization or fail to return to their duty station at the designated time. Not only does this affect the functioning of the whole unit, but it can also compromise mission readiness.


Service members are expected to uphold honesty and integrity in all their actions, including financial matters. Fraudulent activities such as falsifying documents, misrepresenting information, or engaging in deceitful practices for personal gain undermine the trust and cohesion within the military community. Whether it involves fraudulent enlistment, expense reimbursement, or any other financial matter, such actions can lead to severe consequences under the UCMJ.


Considered one of the most dishonorable acts in the military, desertion is a serious offense that occurs when a service member intentionally leaves their unit or duty station with the intent to abandon their obligations to the military permanently. While it undermines unit cohesion, desertion compromises operational effectiveness and can put the lives of fellow service members at risk.

Preparing for a court-martial requires careful attention to detail and thorough preparation. If you are facing this situation, you should strongly consider getting legal guidance to help ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process.