Legal Definition and Related Resources of Court-martial

Meaning of Court-martial

A court established for trying offenses against naval, military or airforce discipline, or against the ordinary law, by a member of the Armed Forces.

Court-martial Alternative Definition

A military or naval tribunal, which has jurisdiction of offenses against the law of the service, military or naval, in which the offender is engaged. The original tribunal, for which courtsmartial are a partial substitute, was the court of chivalry (q.v.) These courts exist and have their jurisdiction by virtue of the military law, the court being constituted and empowered to act in each instance by authority from a commanding officer. The general principles applicable to courts-martial in the army and navy are essentially the same, and, for consideration of the exact distinctions between them, reference must be had to the works of writers upon these subjects. Courts-martial for the regulation of the militia are held in the various states under local statutes, which resemble in their main features those provided for in the army of the United States; and when in actual service, the militia, like the regular troops, are subject to courts-martial, composed, however, of militia officers. As to their constitution and jurisdiction, these courts may belong to one of the following classes:
(1) General, which have jurisdiction over every species of offense of which courtsmartial have jurisdiction. They are to be composed in the United States of not less than five nor more than thirteen commissioned officers of suitable rank, according to the exigencies of the service, and in England of not less than thirteen commissioned officers, except in special cases, and usually do consist of more than that number.
(2) Regimental, which have jurisdiction of some minor offenses occurring in a regiment or corps. They consist in the United States of not less than three- commissioned officers; in England, of not less than five commissioned officers, when that number can be assembled without detriment to the service, and of not less than three, in any event. The jurisdiction of this class of courts-martial extends only to offenses less than capital committed by those below the rank of commissioned officers, and their decision is subject to revision by the commanding officer of the division, regiment, or detachment, by the officer who appointed them, or by certain superior officers.
(3) Garrison, which have jurisdiction of some minor offenses occurring in a garrison, fort, or barracks. They are of the same constitution as to number and qualifications of members as regimental courts-martial. Their limits of jurisdiction in degree are the same, and their decisions are in a similar manner subject to revision.
(4) Summary, of limited jurisdiction, for the trial of minor offenses.

Related Entries of Court-martial in the Encyclopedia of Law Project

Browse or run a search for Court-martial in the American Encyclopedia of Law, the Asian Encyclopedia of Law, the European Encyclopedia of Law, the UK Encyclopedia of Law or the Latin American and Spanish Encyclopedia of Law.

Court-martial in Historical Law

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Legal Abbreviations and Acronyms

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This definition of Court-martial is based on the The Cyclopedic Law Dictionary . This entry needs to be proofread.

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Court-Martial in the Dictionary of Law consisting of Judicial Definitions and Explanations of Words, Phrases and Maxims

See Martial.

Note: This legal definition of Court-Martial in the Dictionary of Law (English and American Jurisprudence) is from 1893.

Court Martial in Law Enforcement

Main Entry: Law Enforcement in the Legal Dictionary. This section provides, in the context of Law Enforcement, a partial definition of Court Martial. This legal term is related to the United Kingom and/or the English Legal System.


See Also

  • Martial


See Also

  • Law Enforcement Officer
  • Policeman
  • Law Enforcement Agency

Further Reading

English Legal System: Court Martial

In the context of the English law, A Dictionary of Law provides the following legal concept of Court Martial : A court convened within the armed forces to try offences against *service law. It consists of a number of serving officers, who sit without a jury and are advised on points of law by a legally qualified *judge advocate. Army and air-force courts martial are similar. The Armed Forces Act 1996 (effective from 1 April 1997) updated the laws in this field; in particular, it reinforced the independence of courts martial.

A general court martial must consist of a president of the rank of major/squadron leader or above and four members, at least two of whom must be of the rank of captain/flight lieutenant or above. Up to two members may be warrant officers (i.e. noncommissioned).

A district court martial must consist of a president of the rank of major/squadron leader or above and two members, at least one of whom has held commissioned rank for at least two years. Up to one member may be a warrant officer.

A field general court martial may only be convened in active service conditions, and may exceptionally consist of two officers. Naval courts martial must consist of between five and nine officers of the rank of lieutenant or above who have held commissioned rank for at least three years, although up to two members may be warrant officers. The members of the court may not all belong to the same ship or shore establishment. The president of a naval court martial must be of the rank of captain or above, and when a senior officer is to be tried there are further rules as to the court’s composition. In all cases members of another branch of the armed forces of equivalent minimum rank may serve on army, air-force, or naval courts martial. Courts martial’s findings of guilty, and their sentences, are subject to review by the Defence Councilor any officer to whom they delegate. Since 1951 there has been a Courts-Martial Appeal Court, which consists of the Lord Chief Justice and other members of the Supreme Court. After first petitioning the Defence Council for the quashing of his conviction, a convicted person may appeal to the Court against the conviction and (from 1 April 1997) against sentence. Either he or the Defence Council may then appeal to the House of Lords.

When a member of the armed forces is charged in the UK with conduct that is an offence under both service law and the ordinary criminal law the trial must in certain serious cases (e.g. treason, murder, manslaughter, and rape) be held by the ordinary criminal courts (and is in practice frequently held by them in other cases). Provision exists to ensure that a person cannot be tried twice for the same offence.

See also standing civilian court.



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