A court-martial is a military proceeding within the military legal system. If you are not in the military or are a new member of the armed services, the process may be confusing. Military law has its own system separate from California. You may face certain crimes within this system that you would not within the state system. It also runs a little differently than the state courts. There are three types of courts-martial that you could face if you get into trouble while serving in the military.

CNN explains that Uniform Code of Military Justice sets up the military legal system and the type of courts-martial. A general court-martial is actually more serious than the name suggests. This is the highest level and only a general, flag officer, commanding officer, the president or the secretary of defense may call one. The penalties at this level include the death penalty and dishonorable discharge.

A summary court-martial is the complete opposite. It is the most minor type and is only for minor charges. There are maximum penalties based on your rank or grade.

The third type of court-martial is the special court-martial. It is for misdemeanor crimes and can only sentence you to up to 12 months of incarceration. It also hands out punishments that are less severe than that, but that is the maximum punishment from this court.

You will go to the type of court-martial suited for the accused crime. Obviously, the more severe your crime, the more severe the punishment as with the state legal system. However, the penalties in a military court can vary widely and have long lasting effects. This information is for education and is not legal advice.