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Material aspects of a general court-martial sexual assault case

A recent article on military law presents some germane and interesting information concerning the singular aspects of a general court-martial case focused on sexual assault, and we pass along some central considerations for readers in today's blog post.

An initial point to note is the role played by a so-called "Special Victim's Counsel" (SVC) who is available to represent alleged sexual assault victims. The SVC -- who must be an active-duty military lawyer -- often advises his or her client during all phases of a sexual assault investigation and court-martial. The SVC program was inaugurated in 2013.

As compared with a special court-martial, a general court-martial is a comparatively serious affair, with either a judge or jury considering allegations that would typically comprise a felony in a civilian court.

And the consequences of a general court-martial, including in a sexual assault case, can be dire indeed for a convicted servicemember. They include these potential sentencing possibilities, either singly or in some combination:

  • Imprisonment, including the potential for a life sentence
  • Dishonorable discharge
  • Rank reduction and forfeiture of pay
  • Death

There are several distinct differences between a general court-martial and a civilian felony trial. One involves the jury pool. In a civilian case, jurors are sometimes randomly selected from within a community. In a general court-martial, names of servicemembers deemed well qualified by commanders are forwarded to the court-martial convening authority.

And sentencing proceeds in a different manner. In civilian trials, there is often a time gap -- sometimes many months -- between a case outcome and a sentencing announcement. With a general court-martial, sentencing is pronounced immediately after a verdict is returned in the case.

Military law applicable to courts-martial proceedings is specialized and singular. A proven military defense attorney can respond to the questions and concerns of any person accused of a military crime and facing a court-martial or other disciplinary hearing.

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