After charges are referred to court-martial by the Convening Authority, the accused must be arraigned. Arraignment consists of a reading of the charges and specifications to the accused during a court-martial session. The accused may waive the reading.
Entry of Pleas
After the charges are read or the reading has been waived, the accused is then allowed, but not required, to plead either guilty or not guilty to the charges, though entry of pleas often takes place at a later session of court. Once arraignment has been completed, the convening authority may not refer new charges to the same court-martial for which the accused was arraigned.
It is critical that an accused bring certain motions before pleas are entered. The defense should be asked by the military judge whether it has any motions to make before the entry of pleas. The following motions must be raised before a plea in entered:
Presence of the Accused
An accused must be present at the arraignment, the time of the plea, every stage of the trial including Article 39(a) sessions of courts, voir dire and challenges of members, the return of findings, presentencing proceedings, and post-trial sessions of court. Attendance at these proceedings is considered the service member’s appointed place of duty. If an accused has to travel for arraignment or any other session of court, such traveling is not for “disciplinary action” as used in the Joint Travel Regulations.
An accused’s continued presence at the trial, to include the return of the findings and even the determination of a sentence, is not required and the accused is considered to have waived the right to be present whenever, after being initially present, the accused:
(1) Is voluntarily absent after arraignment; or
(2) After being warned by the military judge that disruptive conduct will cause the accused to be removed from the courtroom, the accused continues to engage in conduct which justifies his exclusion from the courtroom.
The prosecution has certain discovery obligations prior to arraignment. Military Rule of Evidence (M.R.E.) 304(d) requires the prosecution, before arraignment, to “disclose to the defense the contents of all statements, oral or written, made by the accused that are relevant to the case, known to trial counsel, and within the control of the Armed Forces, and all evidence derived from such statements, that the prosecution intends to offer against the accused.”
M.R.E. 304(d) has two components. The rule first requires the prosecution to disclose the contents of all statements made by the accused that are relevant to the case and known to the trial counsel (prosecutor). Secondly, the prosecution must disclose “all evidence” derived from such statements if the prosecution intends to offer the evidence at trial.
Protect Your Military Career and Freedom
An accused’s arraignment and entry of pleas are important trial milestones. When your career, freedom, and future are on the line, you need an experienced law firm in your corner. The skilled and assertive attorneys at Military Justice Attorneys have successfully defended service members facing investigation, court-martial, and discipline for the most serious sexual assault offenses and will ensure that every avenue of defense is aggressively pursued on your behalf. Call us today at (843) 473-3665 or contact us online for a free consultation.