Bethesda, MD Military Courts-Martial Attorney

No one forgets the moment when you are told that you’re facing court-martial charges or that you are under investigation. There are different types of administrative and criminal hearings that the military service member could be forced to confront – from court-martials and administrative boards to security clearance hearings and Non-judicial punishment and each of them could have a substantial impact on your military career and your rights.  

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Military service members face a stricter and more complicated criminal justice system.  While many attorneys understand civilian criminal justice procedures, the military’s approach is different and it can be confusing and intimidating.  Also, there are procedural advantages in the military that can assist you in your defense if you are aware of them.  If you have received notice that you are facing a court-martial or your are under investigation, it is imperative that you talk to a lawyer with military legal experience.  We are located at the Bethesda metro near the Bethesda National Military Medical Center.

Military criminal law is a complex area of law that is governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).  Both civilian crimes (like DUI and assault) as well as military crimes (like AWOL and failing to follow a lawful order) can be the subject of a court-marital.  You need an attorney with extensive military experience fighting for the rights of service members facing criminal charges.  While you are on active duty, you are subject to the provisions UCMJ at all times -- even if you are off base.  

At the Burch Law Firm, attorney Larry Burch has over 25 years helping service members in the U.S. Armed Forces who are being investigated for UCMJ violations and other offenses. As a former Navy JAG attorney, he understands the intricacies of the military criminal justice system and can put this experience to work for you.  Having worked as a lawyer in the military and as a civilian attorney, he understands both the accused’s goals and the command’s concerns and can often find a resolution.  But if the case requires a hearing, he has successfully represented military (and uniform) service members charged with a wide variety of crimes and offenses in all military venues.

Introduction to Courts-Martial and NJP Hearings:

When a military service member is suspected of committing a crime or other offense, he or she can be referred to a General Court-Martial, a Special Court-Marital (mainly for enlisted members) and a Summary Court-Marital.  Also, non-judicial punishment may be imposed for minor offenses.  These legal processes are all governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (the UCMJ).  Each forum can impose different potential sentences and provide different levels of due process to the accused.  Attorney Larry Burch has represented accused service members facing charges for over 25 years and understands the benefits and risks of each forum.  

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Non-Judicial Punishment (pursuant to UCMJ, Article 15) (known as: “Captain’s Mast” in the Navy and “Office Hours” in the Marine Corps) allows the Commanding officer to impose informal command discipline upon a service member under his or her command for minor offenses like missing work or an arrest for drunk and disorderly conduct.  The punishments available at NJP vary based on the rank of the CO as well as the rank of the accused.  While you cannot be discharged at an NJP hearing, the outcome could limit or even cut off your chances for retention or promotion.

While an accused is not entitled to an attorney at an NJP hearing, it is important that you submit information to the Commanding Officer explaining your side of the matter before the NJP hearing.  Usually the CO knows what he or she is going to do before the hearing starts.  A letter drafted with help from an attorney explaining your case to the CO before you go into the NJP hearing –often has a significant influence on the outcome of the case.

A Summary Court-Martial is the least severe court-martial a military service member can face. A summary court-martial is used for relatively minor offenses where nonjudicial punishment would not suffice. Only one officer takes over as the judge, prosecutor, and defense counsel. The officer is responsible for maintaining a neutral disposition as he delves into both sides of the issue to ensure justice is served.  It is important that you meet with an attorney and plan your response before going to a summary court-martial.  

A Special Court-Martial is more serious than a Summary Court-Martial, but it is less severe than a general court-martial.  The maximum punishment at a Special Court-Martial is limited to a Bad Conduct Discharge (for enlisted only), 1 year of confinement, reduction in rank as well as suspension or forfeiture of pay.  Enlisted service member are usually referred to a to a Special Court-Martial for lower level crimes like extended AWOL, assault or theft. A Special Court Martial is sometimes called “misdemeanor court.

The accused is entitled to a trial before a panel of at least three service members (like a jury) with military judge presiding of the case.  You are entitled to receive evidence from the government and you have the right to present your own witnesses and cross examine the government’s witnesses.  A military lawyer will be appointed to represent you at no charge and you are entitled to hire a civilian attorney to represent you as well.  While confinement is limited to no more than one year, a conviction at Special Court-Martial usually means the end of your career even if you are not awarded a Bad Conduct Discharge.  

A General Court-Martial is the gravest court-martial a military service member can face. This type of court-martial is sometimes referred to as “felony court” and consists of not fewer than five service members (sitting as a jury) and a military judge presiding over the case. (However, the accused may request a trial by a judge without a jury.)   A conviction at a General Court-Martial can lead to the most severe consequences including the death penalty for certain offenses.

For over 25 years, attorney Larry Burch of The Burch Law Firm has stood up for the rights of those who defend our country. Mr. Burch served in the Navy.  He has represented service members at General Court-Martial facing the most serious charges; including murder, gun-running, child molestation, bank fraud and other serious crimes.  Mr. Burch and his legal team provide comprehensive legal services for military service members from the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, the Public Health Service and NOAA.

Those who serve in the military face a wide array of legal challenges that could have a profound impact on their career and their rights. While you are entitled to a military lawyer at a Special or General Court-Martial, you should at least talk to an attorney outside the military with military experience.


Do not risk your future and your freedom without a fight. Contact military courts-martial attorneys at The Burch Law Firm by calling (301) 474-4468 or contacting us online to schedule a free and confidential consultation.   We are located in Bethesda and Greenbelt convenient to Bethesda Military Medical Center, Fort Meade, Joint Base Andrews, Washington Navy Yard, Naval Academy, Pentagon and Joint Base Bolling/Anacostia.


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