Civilian Court vs. Military Court Authority

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The military has the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) that clearly states rules and guidelines to deal with crimes committed by any military service member. When military service members allegedly commit crimes, on or off a military base, the defendants can be prosecuted in either civilian court or military court. Civilian laws, during the commission of a crime, may be breached but crimes committed by the military personnel are probed according to a different set of laws.

Talk to a court martial attorney if you need help for any military service member in your family, who is facing administrative investigation for misconduct or criminal charges.

Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)

UCMJ, an abbreviated form of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, refers to the system of rules that work as guidelines for the military criminal procedures. These rules pertain to only the military court system that finds no resemblance with the civil court system. Under these rules, the military personnel are tried and convicted in military court (court-martial).

The Uniform Code of Military Justice applies to the members serving the military. It includes members of Army, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard. The set of rules also covers the members of the military reserves if they are in active service.

Civilian and Military Court Authority

Military courts are entitled to exercise their absolute authority over military crimes. A few examples of purely military crimes are as follows:

  • Mutiny
  • Sedition
  • Insubordinate Conduct
  • Failing to Obey an Order from the Higher Authority

However, most crimes violate both military and civilian laws. Some examples include robbery, assault, DUIs and murder. A crime may be tried in a civilian court, a military court or both if it is found to have violated both civilian and military law. A member of military force cannot be tried by both a federal court and a military court for the same crime. However, the alleged wrongdoer can be tried in both a state court and a military court for the same crime.

Crimes perpetrated by military service members usually undergo trials in military court and not in civilian court. Military courts use three kinds of courts-martial – Summary Court-Martial, Special Court-Martial and General Court-Martial.

Summary Court-Martial

A summery court-martial deals with only petty crimes under simple procedures. A summary court-martial officer (SCMO), also referred to as a commissioned officer, is entitled to run the summary court-martial and don different roles including prosecutor, judge and jury. The officer will probe the crime, verify the facts, ask queries and decide on the basis of available evidences. The maximum sentences include:

  • Pay cut to the lowest pay grade
  • Loss of two-thirds of monthly salary for one month
  • Confinement for 30 days
  • Without confinement, hard labor for 45 days

Special Court Martial

A special court-martial is reserved for drug abuse, desertion, disobeying orders, absence without leaves and other kinds of misdemeanors. The maximum penalty includes:

  • Bad-conduct discharge
  • Pay cut to the lowest grade
  • Loss of two-thirds of monthly salary for up to one year
  • Confinement for one year
  • Without confinement, hard labor for up to three months

General Court-Martial

It is reserved for harsh crimes including robbery, arson, drug trafficking, rape, sexual abuse and murder. The maximum punishment, which includes forfeitures of pay, dishonorable discharges, confinement, is not prohibited by the UCMJ.

Daisey Bell

I am Daisy Bell and a pro-level blogger with years of experience in writing for multiple industries. I have extensive knowledge of Food, Fitness, Healthcare, business, fashion, and many other popular niches. I have post graduated in arts and have keen interest in traveling.

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