General Court-Martial (GCM)
General Court-Martial. A General Court-Martial is the highest trial level in military law and is used for the most serious of offenses. An Article 32 Pretrial Investigation must be conducted before a case may be referred to a General Court-Martial. The purpose of the Article 32 investigation is to determine if there is some evidence to determine the accused committed the offenses alleged and make recommendations to the convening authority whether any charges should be referred to a General Court-Martial. The accused has the right to waive the Article 32 pretrial investigation.
A General Court-Martial is composed of a military judge sitting alone, or at least five jury members and a military judge. Note that in a capital case (a case in which the government is seeking the death penalty), there must be a minimum of 12 members on the jury and their decisions in the case must be unanimous on both findings of guilt and on the sentence of death). In a General Court- Martial an enlisted accused may request that at least one third of the jury members be enlisted personnel.
A conviction at General Court- Martial is often compared to a Felony in the civilian legal system. At a General Court-Martial, the maximum punishment is established for each offense under the Manual for Courts-Martial, and may include death (for specific offenses), confinement, a dishonorable or bad-conduct discharge for enlisted personnel, or a dismissal for officers.
Right to Civilian Counsel
The accused in a General Court Martial is entitled to a detailed military defense attorney. The accused also has the right to retain a private civilian military attorney of his or her choice, at the accused’s own expense. The accused can and often will elect to hire a civilian lawyer at the accused’s own expense, but it is important that the accused retain a civilian attorney who has the requisite knowledge and experience in military law to adequately represent the client.
Facing a General Court-Martial?
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