Military Courts-Martial vs. Civilian Courts: What You Need to Know

gavel and legal scales

Military and Civillian Courts

If you are in the military and have been accused of a crime, you may be wondering what happens next. You may be wondering whether you will go to military court or civilian court. You may also be wondering what type of defense attorney you need. In this blog post, we will discuss the differences between military courts-martial and civilian courts, as well as how military defense attorneys can help those accused of military crimes.

Primary Differences Between Military and Civilian Courts

Military courts-martial and civilian courts differ in a few key ways. First, military courts-martial are held before a military judge or panel of military members who are senior to the accused, while civilian courts are held before a judge and jury. Second, military courts-martial have different rules of evidence than civilian courts. Finally, military defendants have the right to appeal their convictions to their service's court of criminal appeals and then to the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (C.A.A.F.), while civilian defendants appeal to civilian state or federal courts.

The military officers on a court-martial panel are not required to have any legal training. The rules of evidence in military courts-martial mirror those in civilian courts, but the procedural Rules for Courts-Martial are quite different and, in many cases, significantly limit the due process rights available to the accused.

Sentencing in Military Courts-Martial

In military courts-martial, defendants can be sentenced to a variety of punishments, including death, imprisonment, discharge, and/or reduction in rank. However, the sentence must be approved by the Convening Authority, who is usually a senior officer who often does not have any legal training.

 Appealing a Military Court-Martial Conviction

As we mentioned earlier, military defendants have the right to appeal their convictions to the military's highest court, which is known as the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. This court reviews cases for errors of law and fact. If the court finds that an error was made, it can reverse the conviction or order a new trial.

Common Defenses in Military Courts-Martial Cases

There are a number of defenses that can be raised by military defense attorneys in military court-martial cases. Some of the most common include self-defense, duress, and entrapment. For example, in cases of self-defense, defendants can argue that they used force in order to protect themselves or others from harm. In cases of duress, defendants can argue that they committed a crime because they were threatened with harm if they did not do so. And in cases of entrapment, defendants can argue that they only committed a crime because they were induced to do so by law enforcement or ordered to do so by a superior.

Hiring a Military Defense Attorney

If you have been accused of a military crime, it is important to hire an experienced military defense attorney. Military defense attorneys are familiar with the rules and procedures of military courts-martial and can help you navigate the process. They will also work tirelessly to build a strong defense on your behalf.

For years, the military defense lawyers at The Griffin Law Firm have been helping military personnel accused of crimes as they navigate the process of building a solid defense before going to court. Contact The Griffin Law Firm today for expert insight and guidance into your unique case.

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