Statutory Law: Summary Court Martial in the US Army As Per the Military Code
In the US army there are 3 types of Court s Martial a) General Court Martial b) Special Court martial and c) Summary Court Martial. A Summary court martial is the last in terms of priority and importance and has some unique features. Firstly an accused being tried under a SCM has fewer rights compared to the other 2 Courts Martial and also the punishments that can be awarded by a SCM are much milder than other Courts Martial.
A Summary Court Martial can be convened by a battalion commander. He or she has the power to convene a SCM. However there is a rider and a SCM can only be convened by a commissioned officer not below the rank of captain.
Once a SCM is convened certain rights are available to an accused under the Military code.
a) An accused has the right to consult a lawyer of the Trial Defense Services (TDS). However an accused cannot be represented at the trial by a military attorney, who will only advise the accused as to his rights and obligations.
b) An accused can be represented by a civilian attorney at his own expense, provided the trial is not inordinately delayed due to the attendance of the civil attorney.
c) The accused has the right to object to a trial by SCM, but the final decision on this matter rests with the convening authority.
d) The accused has the right to inspect all documents and evidence if any that is to be presented in a SCM
e) The accused has to be served a charge sheet stating the offence, the names of the accuser and the date the case was referred to the SCMCA (Summary Court Martial Convening Authority).
f) The accused has the right to call witnesses in his defense as well as to know who the government witnesses are
At the trial the accused can plead guilty or not guilty. In case found guilty the accused has the right to present to the court any document or record of his service as a mitigating factor in his sentencing. It must be understood that there is no review or right of appeal in a SCM. However in a limited sense an accused can appeal to the convening authority in case the court had no jurisdiction to try him or on an error of law.
The maximum punishment that can be awarded by a SCM is confinement to camp for one month or hard labor without confinement up to 45 days. A SCM in the US army is different from a SCM under British law or the Indian military code where an imprisonment up to a term of 2 years can be awarded.