Court-Martial Appeals & Administrative Discharge Boards
Your Appellate Rights
- As your trial attorney should have advised you, you can appeal your court-martial conviction and sentence but, depending on the level of court-martial and the severity of your sentence, there are certain time constraints. All court-martial convictions can be appealed; however, failure to file an appeal within the required time period may prevent you from raising errors that may have affected your case, so you must act as soon as possible in order to preserve you right to appeal.
- One of the most important steps in the appellate process is to have an independent and experienced attorney talk with you and review the record of trial for any legal errors. These errors could have been made by the judge, the prosecutor, or your defense counsel at trial or by the convening authority or defense counsel after trial. While certain cases are subject to automatic review and a military appellate attorney will be appointed to represent you, you have the right to be represented by a civilian attorney in addition to your appointed appellate counsel. In order to raise all the possible trial errors, it is important that your attorney have solid appellate law experience.
- If your sentence includes a punitive discharge (Dismissal, Dishonorable or Bad Conduct Discharge) or confinement for one year or longer, your case will be automatically forwarded and reviewed by your service’s Court of Criminal Appeals, unless you waive this right. While the appellate court has a duty to review your case for legal and factual sufficiency, it is up to your appellate counsel to raise errors that may have affected your case.
- After review by the Court of Criminal Appeals, except in limited circumstances, you or your counsel may petition the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (the highest military-specific appellate court) for review of your case. Unlike the review by the Court of Criminal Appeals, this second review is discretionary with the Court and any appeal is subject to strict time limits.
- Grounds for appeal: Newly discovered evidence, fraud on the court, lack of jurisdiction, errors that were prejudicial to a substantial right, and an excessively severe sentence. An experienced appellate counsel can provide you with the best chances of success on appeal.
Administrative Discharge Board
Each service has its own regulations related to administrative discharge boards; however, the formal rules of evidence and procedure that protect an accused at a court-martial do not apply to discharge boards. The lack of these formal safeguards, unfortunately, often work against the service member. The consequences of an administrative discharge board could be forced separation from the service with an “other than honorable” discharge, which may adversely affect your military and veteran’s benefits as well as civilian employment opportunities. It is imperative to have the best possible and most experienced attorney represent you before the board.