Just like the civilian court system, the military also has an appeals system set up for post-conviction relief. If you’ve been convicted under a general or special court martial, your case will automatically be reviewed by a judge advocate and by the convening authority. Upon review, the convening authority can, or may, grant some relief in limited cases. They will never increase your sentence post-conviction or during the appeals process.
In cases where one would like to appeal a summary court martial, the least consequential form of court-martial, the steps can be initiated by the convicted servicemember on the following grounds:
- New evidence
- Suspicion of fraud
- Sentence deemed inappropriate or too harsh given the circumstances, or Judicial error
Appealing Special & General Court Martial Convictions
Because Special and General courts-martial carry much harsher penalties, the appeals process is much more robust. Your first step to initiate your appeal is to petition for clemency. The convening authority has the power to defer or reduce your sentence at this stage.
If you are dissatisfied with the results of your review by the convening authority and request for clemency, you can escalate your appeal request to the individual court of appeals for your service branch, as shown below:
- Army Court of Criminal Appeals
- Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals
- Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals
- Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
- Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals
You are always allowed a conviction review by your branch’s court of appeals if you’ve been sentenced to confinement, dishonorable discharge, dismissal from service, bad conduct, or have been sentenced to death. For lighter sentences, the court of appeals may decide whether or not they will hear your case.
What if my Branch’s Appeals Court Won’t Hear My Case?
In the event that the appeals court denies your appeal request, you still have the option of appealing to the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. It is important to note however that the facts and evidence presented in your case will not be reviewed by the U.S. Court of Appeals. Their job is only to review the case for mistakes of law as it pertains to your case. In other words, they will only overturn your conviction if they find that a legal error was made by the superior officer during the court-martial or in sentencing.
Why You Need a Civilian Attorney
While some parts of the appeals process may seem like you could just get a DIY form online or is self-explanatory, it is always, always in your best interest to hire a civilian courts-martial appeals lawyer well-versed in military law to guide you through the process. After all, your appeal is your last resort to getting life-changing convictions turned over in your favor. The appeals process is also more difficult as you are tasked with convincing military authorities that the original decision was wrong. Do not go at this alone.
The attorneys at MJA have a long history of representing service members through the military appeals process across all branches. We can analyze your case from the moment you were court martialed to the present in order to find errors and grounds for having your sentence reduced or overturned. Don’t risk discharge or confinement. Call us today for a free, confidential consultation. We’re here to protect you.
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