How Long Does A Court-Martial Take?
I'm frequently asked by potential clients speaking with me for the first time this question: how long does a court-martial take? It makes sense for someone who is facing the anxiety of an investigation or newly preferred charges to be asking that question. A court-martial is an incredible disruption on a person's life. Everything is put on hold, their career, relationships, their entire lives are now in question. So how long is this disruption going to last? There are a lot of factors at play, to include how efficient the SJA office is at moving the case forward? Is there any forensic evidence that requires time to analyze? Or, are there a lot of witnesses that need to be interviewed by law enforcement prior to obtaining a prosecutor's opine of probable cause? Add to all this the fact that the investigated accused may have important milestones approaching, such as a promotion board, a PCS overseas, or an ETS date with a new civilian job waiting for them. The fact is, even just the investigation can cause an incredible disruption. If an ETS date is approaching, the Government can also order an extension of 60, 90 or even 180 days past that date. So asking how long a court-martial takes is an important question.
Length of a Special Courts-Martial and General Courts-Martial
After 17 years of practicing military law with a focus on court-martial defense and separation boards, I can say that I have estimated time ranges depending on the type of disposition the Government intends to pursue. Generally speaking, a Special Court-Martial (i.e., misdemeanor-type, UCMJ offenses) takes from 3-6 months from the preferral of charges to the date of trial. A General Court-Martial (i.e., felony-type, UCMJ offenses) takes from 5-8 months from the preferral of charges to the date of trial. Obviously, these are general time ranges that I have seen with the courts-martial I have taken part in. There are different circumstances in every case, but this is typically what I see.
Length of the Military Investigation is Important
One important issue that we don't always have control of is how long the investigation takes. I have represented clients where the investigation is short, so under 6 months; and I have represented clients who have experienced long, protracted investigations even taking up to 2 years from the date of the incident to the date of preferral. Cases that involve the need for a forensics lab to conduct the examination of evidence tend to have a longer investigation. DNA, for example, may be sent to a lab for analysis, but the report may not be completed for several, several months. If the DNA is sent to USACIL, which is the crime lab that handles almost all DNA analysis collected and sent by military law enforcement, it will be placed in a queue and depending on how long that queue is, it could take months before we hear back.
If you are being investigated, or if you are pending the preferral of charges, I can definitely listen to the facts and circumstances of your case and give you a general timeline of what to expect. I know and you know that your life is at a standstill until the case is over, but the Government doesn't pay attention. If your case is taking too long and you do have major life milestones at a standstill, call my office and we can discuss proactive measures to move your case along or to get your charges dismissed entirely. Call Gapasin Law Group, LLC at 1-(888) 919-UCMJ (8265).
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