Court Martial Law and Legal Definition

A court-martial is a military court for trying offenses under army, navy or other armed service rules and regulations. Such offenses must not only be committed by a member of the military, but must also be done in the course of military service, either while engaged in a service-connected duty or while in uniform.

A court-martial may be convened by the President, secretaries of military departments, or senior commanding officers. Military officers act as both finders of fact (jury) and as arbiters (judges) of the law applying to the case. A general court-martial is conducted by a military legal officer called a Judge Advocate and at least five officers for major offenses, including those requiring the death penalty. Lesser offenses are generally heard by a special court-martial conducted by three officers, who may order dismissal, hard labor or lengthy confinement. Minor offenses are conducted by a single officer in a summary court-martial. Court-martial may also refer to the act of charging a member of the military with an offense against military law or to find him/her guilty of such a violation. A court-martial conviction can be appealed to the U.S. Court of Military Appeals.