Summary Court-Martial. A Summary Court-Martial can be convened for military enlisted who find themselves accused of minor misconduct. In civilian courts, a Summary Court- Martial is equivalent to an Infraction or low-level misdemeanor. A Summary Court-Martial is a straight-forward, simple proceeding presided over by one military officer who acts as the prosecutor, judge and jury. The Summary Court-Martial officer appointed by the command may or may not be a judge advocate. One problem that sometimes arises with a Summary Court-Martial is that the Summary Court-Martial officer presiding over the Summary Court-Martial may have little or no prior legal experience whatsoever. Therefore, the presiding officer may not understand the Military Rules of Evidence and Procedure and may misapply the law. Therefore, a just result may be a “roll of the dice.”
Like non-judicial punishment under Article 15, the accused may refuse to be tried by a Summary Court- Martial. If the accused refuses to be tried at a Summary Court-Martial, then the command may refer the charges to a Special Court-Martial, which has the authority to award a harsher punishment.
Unlike non-judicial punishment under Article 15, the Military Rules of Evidence apply at a Summary Court-Martial. The accused is not entitled to be represented by a detailed defense counsel at a Summary-Court-Martial, but may be represented by a civilian defense counsel of their own choosing. Since the accused has the right to present evidence in their defense and cross-examine witnesses, it is important that the accused has a qualified civilian military attorney in their corner to fight the charges.
Facing a Summary Court-Martial?
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