Depending on the type of incident in question, there are a few ways that an accused military member can be court-martialed. One of those ways is through a summary court martial. A summary court martial is provided for those who are facing minor incidents or conduct charges. It allows for a simplified procedure to be followed in the courtroom.


A summary court martial is the lowest form of court martial that often involves minor misconduct by a service member. It is not considered a criminal charge unless the service member is represented by a military defense lawyer during the trial. Therefore, many service members choose to tackle this case on their own and must have the tools and resources available to fight the charges leveled against them.

This trial will consist of one commissioned officer on active duty that will remain in charge of the proceedings. This officer can appoint other officers or active duty service members to sit on the court, determine whether or not the accused is guilty, and if so, administer a punishment.

When in a summary court-martial, a service member faces:

  • Reduction in military rank
  • Up to 30 days in jail
  • Forfeiture of pay
  • Restriction of duty or extra duty

While the penalties for a summary court martial are less severe than those of other court martials, there is still the potential for freedom to be taken away, a military career to be ruined, and can be the start of removal from the military.

It may not be in the best interests of a military member to bring a military defense attorney into court with them for their summary court martial, but they should consult with a lawyer before the trial. A military defense lawyer can help to build a solid defense and provide the accused with the tools they need to fight their charges.

Joseph L. Jordan, Attorney at Law is a worldwide military attorney that can help with a summary court martial case. Contact our firm right away if you are facing a court martial and let us help defend you against your charges.