Military Justice System

The Military Justice System in the United States consists of different laws. Its main purpose is to ensure that order is maintained in the military forces. These established rules must be followed. Failure to do so results in punishments. The Uniform Code of Military Justice The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is the statute used to run the military force. These laws should be followed by every individual such as military students and all the personnel. It deals with certain offenses which are punishable in different ways.

The court martial is involved in these punishments. UCMJ governs the military system through the implemented provisions established. These implementations are made by the Commander-in-Chief (President) who gives an executive order referred to as “Manual for Court Martial” (MCM). The offenses are known as punitive articles which are included in the MCM (Powers, 2010 a. ). The UCMJ has a lot of restrictions compared to the civilian laws. For example, the first amendment of the constitution gives every citizen a right of speech. This freedom is restricted by the UCMJ.

It governs the conduct of the members of the justice system (Byrne, 1981). Nonjudicial punishment (NJP). According to Powers (2010 b. ), “Nonjudicial punishment (NJP) refers to certain limited punishments which can be awarded for minor disciplinary offenses by a commanding officer or officer in charge to members of his/her command. ” This kind of punishment is applied in different areas of the military forces such as Air Force and Army. It is the duty of the commanding officer to give such punishments in these two (Air Force and Army). This officer must have the orders to do so.

However, in other types of forces such as Marine Corps, such orders are the responsibility of the Officer who is in charge at the moment. This officer in charge can be anyone not necessarily the occupant of that office but anybody given the authority by the court martial. The person relegated the duty to offer the NJP (officer in charge or commanding officer) is usually involved in several duties. These include; finding out the offences involving an individual in his group, hearing the cases and either punishing the accused or dismissing that case.

These proceedings are known by different names in the military forces like; “Article 15” (Air Force and Army), “Mast” (Coast Guard and Navy) and “Office hours” (Marine Corps) (Powers, 2010 b. ). There are different kinds of offenses that a person can be punished for under Nonjudicial Punishment. These offenses are known as minor offenses and these are mostly those dealing with the misconduct of a person. The determination of whether the offense is minor or not is the sole decision of the officer.

These are governed by certain factors such as circumstances under which the offense was committed and the nature of the offense. Such offenses include indiscipline to the seniors and not following the orders (Powers, 2010 b. ). The Court Martial There are different types of Court Martial namely; Summary Courts Martial, Special Courts Martial and General Courts Martial. The Summary Courts Martial can handle the minor offenses and offer punishments. Such punishments include; confinement of the person for a period of 30 days, reduce the salary of the person, offer hard labor and other restrictions.

These martial consist of one officer. This commissioned officer must be a lawyer. However, the accused is not required to have a lawyer (Pollack, 2004). The Special Courts Martial deals both with non capital offenses and capital offenses. Their function regarding capital offenses are regulated by the president. These courts are made up of 3 members and a military judge. An agreement is normally needed in order to consider someone as being guilty or not. This requires two-thirds of all the people involved in the court martial (members). If this proportion is not met, the person is set free.

These courts usually offer maximum punishments which include; one year confinement, hard labor for 3 months, pay grade reduction, bad conduct discharge and forfeiting of salary for one year (two-thirds of the pay). Most of the offenses are due to misconduct of an individual. During this hearing, the person is offered a military attorney or he can get a civilian counsel. He or she also has a choice on the military counsel he or she requires (Pollack, 2004). The General Court Martial deals with offenses that are very serious. It is the final level that a person can be tried and consists of a military judge only.

It may also have both the judge and five members. Convening of these courts is the duty of the President, commanding officer or Defense Secretary. The punishments offered usually vary depending on the offense. They may include; reprimand, pay grade reduction, confinement, salary forfeiture, fines, restrictions, a punitive discharge or even death depending on the offense. The person is also entitled to an attorney, a counsel or hiring of his own counsel (Pollack, 2004). Types of Discharges There are different types of discharge that a person may receive.

These include; Honorable discharge, General discharge, other than honorable and bad conduct discharge. Honorable discharge is given after completion of the duty successfully. It may also be given after a person has: attained the age limit, develops a disability, resignation, pregnancy, mental or physical condition. The person is given the privilege to enjoy the full veterans’ rights. General (Under honorable conditions) discharge is given to a person has undergone a number of nonjudicial punishments due to cases of indiscipline although he or she had a good service record.

Other than honorable conditions is for people who have been involved in violence. Such people are not entitled to any veterans’ rights and any other benefits (like wearing uniform in public, unemployment and health benefits). Bad conduct discharge is for any serious crime but not rape, desertion or murder and the person is sentenced to prison. He or she is entitled to limited benefits. Dishonorable discharge is for people who commit murder, rape or desertion. In such cases, there are no benefits and the person is jailed.

In both bad conduct and dishonorable, the person is discharged after completing his or her sentence (Pasquesi, 2010). These discharges affect the person’s life in the civilian world. It will affect the future job prospects of the person and might also deter him or her from enjoying any benefits such as unemployment benefits, health benefits and wearing of uniform in public (Pasquesi, 2010).


Byrne, E. (1981). Military Law: A Handbook for the Navy and Marine Corps. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. Pasquesi, A. (2010). Types of Discharge for the Marines.Retrieved on 14th May, 2010 from http://www. ehow. com/list_5809314_types-discharge-marines. html Pollack, E. I. (May 26, 2004). Military Courts-Martial: An Overview. Retrieved on 14th May, 2010 from http://www. fas. org/man/crs/RS21850. pdf Powers, R. (2010 a. ). Punitive Articles of the UCM. Retrieved on 14th May, 2010 from http://usmilitary. about. com/od/punitivearticles/a/mcm. htm Powers, R. (2010 b. ). Nonjudicial Punishment (Article 15): Commander’s Tool for Discipline. Retrieved on 14th May, 2010 from http://usmilitary. about. com/od/justicelawlegislation/a/article15. htm