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What is a General Court-Martial?

A general court-martial refers to the highest level of the military trial court. The court is established to try service members for their most serious crimes. The punishment authority under the general court-martial is limited by the severest authorized punishment for every offense committed under the Manual for Courts-Martial laws and jurisdictions.

Generally, a general court-martial usually houses a panel of not less than five members and a qualified military judge.  However, the court sometimes consists of the accused and the judge only, especially when the accused requests to be tried by a military judge alone.  Also, general–enlisted court-martial members are also eligible to request that the panel be made of at least one-third of the enlisted individuals. Working with a qualified UCMJ defense attorney is essential to have a crystal understanding of these and more.

 General Court-Martial’s Ultimate Guide

 A general court-martial is known chiefly as a felony court. It works to try anyone subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice {UCMJ} which is the bedrock of all the military courts and laws. The Uniform Code of Military Justice is a federal law enacted by Congress under law articles 77 through chapter 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. These articles are called the punitive articles and deal with unique offenses separately held and punished by the court-martial. Therefore, the general court-martial is a felony court established to try individuals subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including enlisted members, midshipmen, and officers.

Moreover, under the general court-martial laws and regulations, accused individuals have the right to be presented by free military lawyers or hire their civilian attorneys. According to the military courts’ rules, a general court-martial is allowed only to deliver punishment not prohibited by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Some of the penalties include death under serious offenses, and death is expressly authorized.

Under the punitive articles of the general court-martial following the Uniform Code of Military Justice, different articles state and deal with varying offenses for the service members. Article 86, for instance, deals with Absence  Without Leave or commonly abbreviated as AWOL. In contrast, article 104 holds service members guilty of offenses about aiding the enemy. Article 112 deals with drinking on duty, while 133 and 134 deal with conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman and debt and dishonorably failing to pay, respectively.

According to the general court-martial laws, the president or the commander in chief must implement the Uniform Code of Military Justice provisions. The president implements an executive order customarily referred to as the Manual for Courts-Martial or MCM reviewed every year. During the implementation, chapter four of the manual includes and expands on the punitive articles used to serve service members for their grave crimes under the general court-martial. Also, members with court-martial convening authority can mete out appropriate punishments that fall between maximum and minimum measures following the article used during trial and hearing of the case of the accused to determine if they are guilty.


There you have it. If you’re a service member and wonder what the general court-martial entails, this guide is an excellent consideration.  In the court, service members face different punishments such as confinement, reprimands, loss of allowances and reduction to the lowest enlisted pay grade, and more.