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Review of Navy courts-martial activity: charges and punishment

Each of the military branches periodically releases public information regarding military offenses and the resulting disciplinary action taken by authorities in response to them.

The Navy, for example, recently released special and general courts-martial results for November of last year, the most recent month for which such information is available. The data provided are interesting for what they reveal about both the types of alleged misconduct being routinely focused upon and the wide range of penalties handed down. Unsurprisingly, those exactions range widely, from slight punishments to decades-long terms of incarceration.

We summarize some of the information here, preceded by a quick nod to acknowledge the material differences between a special and general court-martial proceeding. The former is more akin to a misdemeanor court, with the latter being reserved more often for felony-type offenses that can bring the most severe penalties, including, potentially, a death sentence for an accused servicemember.

The Navy’s released results encompass offenses committed by sailors in theaters across the world.

As for special courts-martial, representative charges against accused military personnel included things like the following:

  • Disrespect toward a superior commissioned officer
  • Wrongful use of a controlled substance
  • Making false official statements
  • Unauthorized absence

General courts-martial charges included these alleged offenses:

  • Sexual assault
  • Attempted murder
  • Sexual abuse of a child
  • Assault consummated by battery

The punishments for special courts-martial convictions often resulted in a rank reduction, limited confinement, pay forfeiture and hard labor -- either singly imposed or in some combination. It is notable, though, that some military members convicted in special courts-martial proceedings also received bad conduct discharges.

Punishments for general courts-martial convictions included these: dishonorable discharge; a lengthy terms of confinement; forfeiture of all pay; and reduction to the lowest pay grade.

The potential for an accused servicemember in a given case to suffer a seriously adverse outcome in a court-martial proceeding is obviously very real. An experienced and aggressive military defense lawyer can answer questions and provide diligent representation in any disciplinary matter or criminal proceeding.

Source: NavyTimes, “Special and general courts-martial results for November announced,” author uncited, Dec. 16, 2014

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