Military Appeals FAQs | Timing, Cost, and Procedures

Below are listed some of the most common questions I receive from clients.  If your question is not listed or you want more information, please feel free to call.  All consultations are free.

1) Can I appeal?

The first question you probably have is whether you can appeal your court-martial conviction.  Put simply, you have an automatic right to an appeal if your approved court-martial sentence included:  1) death; 2) a dishonorable discharge; 3) a bad-conduct discharge; 4) a dismissal; or 5) confinement for one year or more.

If you do not have one of the above sentences, you do not have an automatic right to an appeal before a military court.  Instead, if you were convicted at a general court martial (and did not receive one of the above punishments), your case will be reviewed by the Judge Advocate General.

In either situation, a highly experienced appellate counsel can make all of the difference.  Even with a right of appeal where the service Court of Criminal Appeals must hear your case, what issues you raise before the court and how you frame your arguments can make a big impact on whether relief is granted.

2) Should I appeal?

With very few exceptions, I believe it is usually in a military member’s best interest to appeal his or her court-martial conviction.  While courts-martial may try to get it right, the JAG prosecutors are often have less than two years of trial experience and the members (jurors) are regular folks without specialized legal training.  And even though the military judge should have a reasonable amount of trial experience, even this is not guaranteed.  The result is trials with numerous mistakes and errors.  Will every error cause a court-martial conviction to be overturned?  No.  But an experienced military appeals attorney can make the most of  your case.

3) Why should I hire an attorney when the government gives me one?

If you have the right to appeal, the government is required to assign you a court-martial appeals counsel.  Generally speaking, though, even the most experienced military appellate counsel will only have two years or less of experience.  After that, court-martial appellate counsel are usually transferred to a new assignment.  Do you want an appellate counsel with maybe two years of experience?  While that is something you must decide, I recommend you read why I believe using military appellate counsel is not always in your best interest.

If you’d like more information, either about the process or to discuss your case, please contact me for a free consultation.