Summary courts-martial are governed by Article 20 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and Rules for Courts-Martial (RCM) 1301-1306. Summary courts-martial are typically used to address minor UCMJ violations for which a special or general court-martial is not appropriate. The summary court-martial process only applies to offenses alleged to have been committed by enlisted servicemembers. A command cannot convene a summary court-martial if the accused objects to trial by summary court-martial.
A summary court-martial conviction does not qualify as a federal conviction. While it does involve a formal hearing, it does not typically take place in a court. There is not a judge involved in a summary court-martial. A military officer, usually a representative from the command (not a lawyer), will preside over the hearing and review the evidence offered by the command. The summary court-martial office will typically ask questions of the witnesses and the accused, and return the verdict and sentence. The Military Rules of Evidence apply at summary court-martial, but the hearing officer may not understand the rules well enough for them to be meaningful to an accused.
The Rules for Courts-Martial do not provide an accused the right to a detailed military defense attorney at summary court-martial (although many commands will grant one nonetheless). Rule for Court-Martial 1301(e), however, gives an accused servicemember the absolute right to have a civilian defense counsel present during a summary court-martial hearing. Make no mistake; a summary court-martial can have lasting consequences for a servicemember’s future. Contact Brandon Barnett today for a free evaluation of your case. Mr. Barnett can explain your rights at summary court-martial and help you make wise choices concerning your military career.