One of the most agonizing parts of understanding the court-martial process is in understanding the collateral consequences of a possible conviction. Active duty counsel are not always experienced in understanding the effects of a court-martial. This is partly because after the trial, their involvement in the cases is usually over. This article provides some answers to common questions.
What types of punishment can be imposed?
The UCMJ authorizes 9 types of punishment for different types of offenses: punitive discharge, confinement, hard labor without confinement, restriction, reduction in grade, fine, forfeitures, reprimands, and death.
When does the punishment become effective?
A punitive discharge does not become effective until appellate review is complete. Forfeitures in pay and reductions in rank take effect either 14 days after the sentence or when the Convening Authority approves the sentence. There are automatic forfeitures if the sentence is more than six months or a punitive discharge is imposed. Fines are due immediately. Confinement credit begins to accrue the day that it is adjudged.
What is good conduct credit?
A sentence imposing confinement can be devastating. The accused and family will often have many questions. Service members can obtain a reduction in their amount of time served for good conduct and work credit. Depending on the length of the sentence, a service member could possibly reduce his or her sentence by half.
What is clemency and parole?
Under Rule for Courts-Martial 1105, the Convening Authority has the authority to remit or suspend any part of a sentence. The Secretary of the service and Clemency and Parole Board also have that authority.
Is a court-martial conviction a felony or misdemeanor?
Nearly every service member who has ever faced a court-martial has asked that question. Court-martial convictions can carry life long collateral consequences beyond the punishment imposed by the court.
The question can elicit different answers depending on who you ask. The UCMJ does not distinguish between felonies and misdemeanors. The general rule is that a felony is an offense that carries a maximum punishment of one year or more confinement - regardless of the actual punishment imposed. A misdemeanor generally carries a maximum possible punishment of less than one year confinement.
Summary courts-martial are not criminal convictions. Special courts-martial have a jurisdictional limit of one year confinement. Some attorneys advise that special courts are therefore misdemeanor offenses.
The UCMJ also has many offenses that are purely military offenses (e.g. absence without leave, disrespect). Some states may consider purely military related offenses as a misdemeanor.
The question is often state dependent.
What travel or transportation entitlements do I receive?
You are entitled to transportation to your home of record. If you receive confinement of more than 30 days, you are authorized shipment of household goods with 180 days of the court-martial.
Do I keep any medical or post privileges?
You remain enrolled in DEERS while on involuntary excess leave awaiting appellate review.
Will I lose my voting rights?
The Supreme Court does permit states to disenfranchise convicted felons from voting. Forty-six states and DC have enacted laws preventing inmates from voting. Thirty-two states disenfranchise felons on parole. Fourteen states permanently deny felons the right to vote.
Will I be able to own firearms?
Federal and state laws do place restrictions on the purchase of firearms by those convicted of felonies. 18 USC § 922(b). Many jurisdictions distinguish between violent and non-violent offenses.
Know Your Rights
The Court-Martial Process
Your Right to an Attorney
How to Obtain Experts
Right to a Speedy Trial
Jury Selection in the Military
Types of Affirmative Defenses
The Military Rules of Evidence
Military Motions Practice
Sex Offender Registration
Free Initial Consultation
Confidential. In-depth. Valuable.
Initial consultations are confidential, but do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client relationship.