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Judge Advocate General's Corps

From Academic Kids

This article is in reference to the U.S. JAG Corps. For alternate meanings, see Judge Advocate General's Corps (disambiguation).

Judge Advocate General's Corps, also known as JAG, is the judicial arm of the United States armed forces, consisting of autonomous departments in the Air Force, Army and Navy. It is charged with the defense and prosecution of military law as provided in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Officers of the corps are the chief members of the court martial and court of inquiry.

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Military law

The Uniform Code of Military Justice, also known as UCMJ, is the primary legal code through which all internal military justice affairs of the United States are governed. It was created by an act of Congress in 1951 in order to establish identical systems of courts martial in all branches of the nation's armed forces. In addition to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, personnel are subject to the terms of the Constitution and individual state laws where applicable.

Courts-martial

The forum through which judicial cases are tried in the nation's armed forces is the court martial, the name given to a panel of military officers selected to serve similar capacities of a civilian jury. The Uniform Code of Military Justice outlines three distinct typed of courts martial.

General court-martial

  • jurisdiction over crimes committed by commissioned officers, warrant officers and enlisted personnel
  • forum for most serious charges such as homicide or desertion
  • members present are defense counsel, prosecutor (trial counsel) and military judge
  • court martial comprised of 5 or more members, 1/3 may be enlisted if requested
  • maximum sentence is death by execution

Special court-martial

  • jurisdiction over crimes committed by any person, including civilians, covered by military law at the time the crime was committed
  • forum for intermediate offenses such as harassment
  • members present are defense counsel, prosecutor (trial counsel) and military judge
  • court martial comprised of 3 or more members or tried by a judge alone
  • maximum sentence is 12 months confinement, forfeiture of two-thirds pay for 12 months, reduction in rank, bad conduct discharge

Summary court-martial

  • jurisdiction over crimes committed by enlisted personnel only
  • forum for minor offenses such as petty theft
  • only the accused and the summary court-martial are present
  • court martial comprised of a single officer
  • maximum sentence is 1 month confinement, forefeiture of 2/3 pay, reduction in rank
  • can be refused, in which case matter is normally referred to a Special Court Martial

Appeals process

The Uniform Code of Military Justice provides several tiers of appeal. An initial appeal may be reviewed by the convening judge of a court martial. A second tier of appeal is the Court of Criminal Appeals, a five member civilian panel appointed by the President of the United States. Sentences involving dismissal, discharge or confinement of over a year is automatically sent to the Court of Criminal Appeals. Death sentences issued by a court martial are automatically sent to the President of the United States for appeal.

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