Within the military justice system, a summary court-martial is the lowest level of judicial court. Reserved for misdemeanors and minor offenses, this court is typically quite swift and low in stress. The potential punishments are slight when compared with special and general court-martials, but the accused (i.e., the person facing the charges) also has fewer rights. If the summary court-martial officer concludes that you are guilty, you may wish to appeal the decision. Although this isn't common, you will need to learn how to appeal a summary court-martial conviction if you want to be successful.
How to Appeal a Summary Court-Martial Conviction
So you prepare for the court-martial, you're patient and hopeful during the trial, and then . . . you are found to be guilty. The punishments for a guilty finding in a summary court-martial are relatively minor. You could be confined for 30 days, made to forfeit two-thirds of your pay for one month, or be reduced to the lowest pay grade.
Although this outcome is surely disappointing, you may have the right to appeal the conviction. Because summary court-martials are used to try those members of the armed services who have been accused of minor charges, appeals are only allowed in very limited circumstances:
If, within two years of the date the summary court-martial is approved, new evidence is discovered or a question arises regarding (1) fraud on the court-martial, (2) a lack of jurisdiction over the soldier or the offense, (3) another error that harms a substantial right of the accused, or (4) the appropriateness of the sentence, the accused can request a review.
So if you feel that a significant error was made during your court-martial, and that the error caused your guilty conviction, discuss your options with your attorney. If you are eligible to pursue an appeal, your attorney can help you prepare the necessary documentation and then submit an appeal. Unlike special and general court-martials, appeals are not automatic following a summary court-martial conviction, so you must remember to pursue the appeal and submit your request.
Your appeal will be reviewed by a judge advocate, who will examine the case and decide if the legal and factual findings are correct and the sentence is appropriate. If the judge advocate disapproves of the holding, he or she will send the case to a convening authority. If the convening authority also disapproves of the holding, the Judge Advocate General will review the case.
So although appeals following summary court-martial convictions are not common, they are possible. If you're interested in appealing your case, discuss the situation with your attorney to find out if you are eligible.
Whether you've been accused of a minor wrongdoing or a serious military crime, contact the top-quality military lawyers at Newsom & Gapasin for help. Our experienced and aggressive law firm focuses on winning tough cases, some of which have been reported on by national media outlets like CNN, Fox News, Time, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. For more information, please give us a call at 1-(888) 919-8265 , send an e-mail to [email protected], or click here to contact us online. We look forward to hearing from you!