A court-martial is basically a military court. Here, military service members who have been accused of criminal misconduct are assumed innocent until proven guilty, and if found culpable, their punishment is decided. Before the announcement of a verdict at a court-martial, a flurry of thoughts often races through the defendant’s mind. Wondering whether or not the judge will find them guilty.
Remember, even if you’re found to be guilty, you can still take advantage of the appeals process to overturn the guilty verdict. A court-martial appeals lawyer can offer you legal counsel and also represent you during the appeal process.
The right to appeal
The right to appeal court-martial convictions differs from that in civilian court. Alternatives for appeal are based on the type of court-martial.
- Summary court-martial
- Special court-martial
- General court-martial
If a special or general court-martial convicts you of a crime, your case is automatically reviewed by the individual who referred the case for court-martial. This individual is known as the convening authority and he or she can reduce your charges or punishment or dismiss them altogether. What the convening authority cannot do is add to your charges or sentence. The convening authority can seek counsel from the judge advocate while carrying out this review.
The next option
If you find the results of the convening authority review to be unsatisfactory, you can forward your appeal to the military court of appeals. Generally, there are 4 branches of Court of appeals namely. These include Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals, Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals, Army Court of Criminal Appeals, and Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals.
Those cases which are automatically reviewed by a military court of appeal are those that include:
- Bad conduct
- Dishonorable discharge
- Military dismissal
- At least 12 months imprisonment
For other sentences other than the above-mentioned, the courts of appeal can decide whether or not to hear the case. If the appeals court won’t hear your review case, Article 69 of the UCMJ gives you the right to submit a request for your case to be heard by the Judge Advocate General.
During the review process, the Court of Appeal will search for legal mistakes that affected judgment at the court-martial and assess the level of punishment meted out. Additionally, the court will determine whether or not culpability was sufficiently demonstrated. If you pled culpable, the court will also evaluate your guilty plea. Ultimately, the Court of Appeals can only adjust the sentence but not impose a stiffer punishment.
The last option
The U.S Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces is the last resort. However, not all cases can be heard by this court. Generally, a military officer sentenced to death is automatically entitled to apply for an appeal to this court. The rest are expected to file a petition to the court showing a good reason why their cases should be reviewed. Instead of analyzing the original case, this court only hunts for legal mistakes in the preceding military appeals court.
You have the right to a court-martial appeals lawyer at every stage of the appeals process. You have a higher chance of your appeal going smoothly with a lawyer at your side.