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What are the rights of service members facing courts-martial?

| Apr 28, 2021 | Military Law

Military personnel in any branch of the U.S. armed forces are just as vulnerable to allegations of criminal activity as private citizens are. Like private citizens, they need effective legal counsel in the wake of an arrest or the onset of a criminal investigation.

Under military law, service members may choose a military legal advocate or a civilian criminal defense attorney to represent their best interests. In many cases, a civilian defense yields better results for those anticipating courts-martial proceedings.

What legal rights do accused service members enjoy?

Like private citizens, those serving in the military have certain rights in criminal proceedings. Military law gives defendants the right to:

  • Be informed of the charges they face
  • Remain silent to avoid self-incrimination
  • Protection from double jeopardy (being tried by court-martial twice for the same offense)
  • An effective defense by a military advocate or a civilian attorney
  • Appeal courts-martial verdicts (appeal is automatic if the court-martial results in a death sentence)

Unfortunately, these rights are not as comprehensive as the rights in place to protect civilian defendants. North Carolina service members often rely on private attorneys to avoid a dishonorable discharge or other severe consequences. Another way to increase the odds of acquiring a favorable outcome is to have a private attorney work with your military counsel.

When seeking services from a private lawyer, it is wise to look for one with experience handling military law cases. Another factor to consider in your search is how much time a lawyer can devote to your defense. Often, military advocates have less time than a private attorney to spend on your case. Exploring your options is wise when your future is on the line.