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What happens when court-martialed?

 In ARTICLE 120, Blog, court-martial

What happens when court-martialed?

What happens when you are court-martialed? Those service-members who are court-martialed can face a variety of outcomes. These include being acquitted of whatever UCMJ violations they are accused of, or being convicted of some, or all, of the charges. For those wondering about what happens when you are court-martialed, they should know each charge can carry its own specific punishment and characterization of discharge. The charge the military brings to Courts-martial most is UCMJ Article 120a, 120b. or 120c. A common penalty for UCMJ Article 120 is a Dishonorable Discharge and jail time for convicted offenders. A Dishonorable Discharge will make a veteran ineligible for VA benefits. A felony conviction will make it hard for veterans to get a job. Those wondering what happens when you are court-martialed should know that perhaps, the most severe aspect of an Article 120 conviction is the requirement to register as a sex offender. This designation can follow a service member for a lifetime and limit their ability to hold a high-paying job and control where they live. The military considers sexual assault and its associated acts to be very severe violations and reserves its court system for these cases. Despite the seriousness of the situation, convicted service-members do have recourse by appealing a court-martial conviction. Fortunately, some court-martial appeals are often automatic, service-members rightly want to know how often these court-martial appeals are successful, and what they should look for in a court-martial appeal attorney.

Other UCMJ violations are generally dispatched through adverse administrative action like Non-Judicial Punishment like Article 15 or Captain’s Mast and, for higher ranking service-members, Letters of Reprimand, Letters of Instruction, General Officer Memorandums of Reprimands, or GOMORS. Many adverse actions like these lead to involuntary separation boards.

Can you appeal a court-martial conviction?

Now that you know what happens when you are court-martialed, what happens next? A Court-Martial conviction can be appealed and for most, court-martial appeals are automatic. Each service has its own Court of Criminal Appeal. If an appeal at a service court fails, under certain circumstances there may be an opportunity to appeal to the Court of the Armed Forces or CAAF. CAAF only reviews about 10% of court-martial convictions per year.

How long does a court-martial appeal take?

Court-Martial appeals can take up to two-years to complete. After a conviction, it typically takes six-months for the convening authority responsible for the court-martial to produce the record of trial. The convening authority sends the Record of Trial to the convicted service-member and his detailed counsel. The detailed counselor, or retained civilian attorney, then has five months to submit an appeal brief to the service court. The service appeals court can take weeks to months to act upon the submitted brief. An additional appeal to CAAF can take several more months.

How often are court-martial appeals successful?

It’s difficult to say exactly how often are court martial appeals successful. UCMJ Article 62 is the article by which the Military Courts of Criminal Appeals exercise their jurisdiction to consider appeals. Article 62 doesn’t allow the appeals court to re-litigate the case. The appeals court merely looks to see if there were any legal errors that occurred during the case that might justify providing relief for or dismissing findings against the convicted service member. Sure, convicted service-members rightly want to know how often are court appeals successful. It’s important to understand that the court room is a knife fight with rules. In the fog of battle, people make mistakes and break the rules, either intentionally or unintentionally. Those mistakes may allow for relief or the possibility of overturning a conviction. This is an additional opportunity to seek justice.

What should I look for in a court-martial appeal attorney?

A court-martial appeal is a specific action that requires training and experience. A service member or loved one looking for an attorney to represent the convicted in a court-martial appeal should look for an appellate attorney experienced in arguing in front the service courts of appeals and one with a record of wins before the court.

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