Every disciplinary action taken against a member of the U.S. armed forces under the Uniform Code of Military Justice is subject to appeal by the service member. In fact, as a service member, you have as much right as any citizen of the U.S. to carry your case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Experienced Military Court-Martial Appeals Attorney
I am military defense attorney Charles Swift of Swift & McDonald, P.S., in Seattle, Washington. As a former JAG defense lawyer, I spent ten years of my military career helping military personnel fight aggressively to protect their freedom, their reputation and their future. I earned a reputation for my tough, hard-nosed and never-say-die approach to helping my clients. Throughout the process, I always advise my clients that "it ain't over 'til it's over." Taking your court-martial conviction through the appeals process should be considered an integral part of the entire UCMJ process, not just something you think about if you don't win.
Should You Hire Your Own Attorney? Absolutely!
You have the right to hire a civilian attorney. In fact, having an attorney is your best option for protecting your rights throughout the UCMJ process, from initial Article 32 investigation and hearing through the final appeal. While you are entitled to appointed counsel both at court-martial and on appeal, the same counsel who handled your trial will not handle your appeal. If you are convicted, you will have at least two different counsel, and often as many as four or five different counsel depending on how long your case takes to be completed. The result is that military counsel cannot possibly be as familiar with all the facts and issues in your case as a single civilian attorney who has been with you from beginning to end. Different military counsel will ensure that you get different viewpoints, having a single civilian counsel throughout the process will ensure that no detail or issue is overlooked.
What Appeals Processes Are Available?
If you have been convicted of a court-martial, there are a variety of reviews that may be available to you depending on the type of court-martial and the sentence you received. Choosing your appeals lawyer is crucial because you only get one chance to appeal your court-martial. Unlike civilian courts, military courts only allow one appeal and there is no retrial.
Court-Martial Appeals Overview
After a court-martial conviction, the type of appeal you qualify for will depend on your sentence.
If you received the death penalty, a bad conduct discharge, a dishonorable discharge, an officer dismissal, or confinement for more than one year, you have the right to automatically appeal to the criminal appeals court of your branch. The branch's criminal appeals court reviews courts-martial for legal error, factual sufficiency, and sentence appropriateness.
If you did not receive a sentence that qualifies you for an automatic appeal, the judge advocate will review your case. After reviewing your case, the judge advocate will either certify your case to proceed to your branch's criminal appeals court, mitigate the findings and/or sentence of the court-martial, or deny your appeal. The judge advocate review process helps ensure that only non-frivolous cases make it to the branch's criminal appeals court.
After your case has gone to your branch's criminal appeals court, you may appeal its decision to the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF). Only cases with a death penalty sentence or certified by the advocate general have an automatic appeal to CAAF. If you decide to appeal to CAAF, the court has discretion over which cases it hears, and it may not choose to hear your case. The CAAF only considers questions of law and legal sufficiency.
Preparing for an Appeal Begins With the Earliest Stages of Preparing Your Case
Appealing your case is not something you do when everything else fails. I prepare every defense case by carefully tracking decisions and how certain points may be overturned on appeal. If an appeal becomes necessary, I am on top of the strategy, ready to continue fighting for your future and your freedom.
Free Initial Consultation · I Represent U.S. Service Personnel Around the World
From offices in Seattle, the firm represents clients in civilian criminal matters and military family law matters throughout Washington State. Mr. Swift represents clients in military law matters at U.S. bases around the world. Contact the law firm of Swift & McDonald to arrange a free initial consultation with an experienced lawyer today. Call toll free 800-391-7308.