Based on article 16 of the UCMJ, courts-martial
are of three typessummary, special, and general. The
captain decides the type of court-martial to award
based on the nature, time, and place of the offense.
A summary court-martial (SCM) consists of one
commissioned officer. If there is only one
commissioned officer with the command, that officer
acts as the summary court officer. A summary court
can award any sentence that may be given at mast. It
also can award the additional punishments of
confinement for 1 month, hard labor without
confinement for 45 days, restriction for 2 months, or
forfeiture of two-thirds pay per month for 1 month.
A special court-martial (SPCM) consists of not
less than three members. The accused can request that
enlisted personnel serve on the court. In that event,
enlisted personnel make up at least one third of the
court membership. The accused has the right to consult
with a defense counsel and to request that the court
consist of only the military judge. A SPCM may award
a more severe punishment than a SCM. For example, it
can award a bad-conduct discharge, confinement for 6
months, loss of two-thirds pay per month for 6 months,
and hard labor without confinement for 3 months.
A general court-martial (GCM) consists of a
military judge and not less than five members. As in a
special court-martial, the accused may request that
enlisted personnel serve on the court. Under the
conditions described for a SPCM, the accused may
request that the court consist of only a military judge. A
GCM can award any punishment not forbidden by the
UCMJ, including death when specifically authorized
for the offense.
All accused persons have the right to be
represented before special and general courts-martial
by defense counsel. This counsel may be a civilian
attorney, at the expense of the accused, or a military
attorney detailed to represent the accused.
USING JUDGMENT IN REPORTING
The need for using good judgment is vital in
reporting violations. Some violations are minor in
nature and some are major. As a petty officer, you need
to become familiar with separating the two. Good
judgment ability is not an inherited trait. You must
develop it over a period of time. You have to develop
the ability to decide and to form an opinion objectively
when you report violations of the UCMJ. The
judgment you use may affect the rest of a persons
You are going to see violations of the UCMJ every
day. Some will be minor and some will be major. If you
see a violation, stop for a minute to think before you
act. You cannot smile away a violation one day and
rebuke it the next. Under these conditions personnel
dont know where they stand. At times you need only
offer a word of caution to correct a problem. At other
times you may need to take more action.
Study your personnel, watch them, learn their
language and points of view, work with them, guide
them, and counsel them. Then, you can commend the
good personnel and, as often as you must, report the
bad ones without fear or favor.
If you were to report minor violations all the time,
you would bog down our justice system; and your
effectiveness as a leader would rapidly decline.
Remember to stop and think before you act. Use
discretion in reporting a violation.
Violations That Should Be Reported
Remember, a violation is a violation and should
not go unanswered. At times your judgment as a petty
officer comes into play. You need to take a hard look at
the violation and see if it warrants reporting.
Some examples of offenses that normally warrant
reporting (major violations) are as follows:
Assault of a superior commissioned officer or
willful disobedience of a superior commissioned
Disrespect towards a superior commissioned
Being drunk while on duty
Drunken or reckless driving
Willful destruction of government property
Who decides which type of court-martial to