Are There Differences Between Civilian And Military Criminal Proceedings?

The way in which a court tries an individual when someone charges them with a crime can be completely different depending on whether they are enlisted in the military or if they are a civilian. When you work in the military, you choose to set yourself apart and sign up for new responsibilities and rules, and this applies to committing crimes as well. There are different procedures for when someone in the military commits a crime, and the punishments and penalties will be different than they are in civilian court. Regardless of your rank in the military, though, a criminal conviction can destroy your good reputation and ruin your career. For more information on the main differences between civilian and military proceedings, read below.

Difference #1. Court-Martial. When a civilian commits a crime, an officer will likely charge them, they may go to court, and they will likely face a judge and a jury in civilian court. However, under the United Code of Military Justice (USMJ), a member of the military may need to go to a court-martial, not civilian court. A court-martial specifically handles crimes related to the military. For example, if an officer charges a person in the military with reckless driving, they may be able to get by with just going to civilian court to fight this charge. However, when a crime is more serious—larceny or sexual assault—they will likely need to attend a court-martial. The three types of courts-martial are:

  • Summary Courts-Martial
  • Special Courts-Martial, and
  • General Courts-Martial

Difference #2. Your Jury Is Different.  In a sense, both a civilian and a member of the military will go to court and have a jury of their peers. In civilian court, though, this will be members of the local community from different educational backgrounds and different occupational backgrounds. In a court-martial, however, the jury will likely consist of different officers in the military and the number does not always reach 12.

Difference #3. You Do Not Need a Unanimous Vote.  To avoid a hung jury and determine a guilty or not-guilty sentencing, the jury in a civilian court must come to a unanimous vote for their trial. On the other hand, military courts do not require a unanimous vote and only need the jury to have a three-fourths vote to decide on imprisonment. That said, for the death penalty to go through in military court, the jury must be unanimous.

Difference #4. Your Attorney Will Be Different. The military justice system is detailed and nuanced, and lawyers who represent members of the military will likely need specialized training and experience with the military and prior military cases. It is easier to find a civilian criminal attorney because you can usually look them up by their state and what they practice.

If someone has accused you of a crime and you are a member of the military, it is best to speak with a military defense lawyer who can help your case specifically. To get in touch with a military defense lawyer or set up your first consultation, contact a military defense lawyer in Fort Hood, like one from The Federal Practice Group, today.

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