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Courts-Martial: Understanding Your Rights

If you are an active duty service member and are charged with an offense related to your military service, you are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. This means that you will likely be prosecuted in military court under the rules and regulations outlined in the Manual for Courts-Martial of the United States. The purpose of these rules is to “provide for a just determination of every proceeding.” The Manual sets out the rules related to detention, right to counsel and to the types of hearings that may be conducted. 

As in any American criminal judicial proceeding, there are protections for the accused party.

All service members will be appointed counsel upon request, but the accused will have a right to retain independent counsel as well. In either case, the lawyer should ensure that charges are brought by a proper convening authority and appropriate decisions are made with regard to detention prior to trial. A conviction could not only cause incarceration, but a conviction for even a minor offense could have a long-term and dramatic impact on retirement and VA benefits. This is just one of the many reasons why it is critical to have the right lawyer on your team.

At Alperstein & Diener, P.A. we pride ourselves on providing first-rate representation for our military men and women who have been charged. We fight hard to make sure that the rules that have been established by Congress are followed and all of our client’s rights are scrupulously honored throughout the process. Because we are not affiliated with the JAG corps, you can be assured that we are beyond command influence and that our only motivation is to represent the accused to the best of our ability.

In any court-martial case where the sentence is longer than one year of incarceration, and the accused has not waived his appellate rights, the case will be referred to a Court of Criminal Appeals. A Court of Criminal Appeals is established by the Judge Advocate General and is comprised of appellate military judges. Following review by the Court of Criminal Appeals, the case may further be reviewed by the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. While the appellate process is available to address errors, mistakes or even official misconduct during the trial, the best strategy is to prevent these situations from happening in the first place. 

Contact Christopher Wheatcroft or Arthur Alperstein at Alperstein & Diener, P.A. if you have any concerns that you may be charged. If you have already been convicted and want to discuss the appellate options available to you, contact Christopher Wheatcroft for a no-cost consultation.