Summary Court-Martial

What is a Summary Court-Martial?

A summary court-martial (SCM) is the lowest level of court-martial in the military justice system. SCM is used to prosecute most minor offenses committed by enlisted service members.  Only enlisted military personnel may be prosecuted
via summary court-martial.  Trial by SCM is not adjudicated by a judge, but rather a single commissioned military officer who need not have specialized legal training or be a lawyer.  This type of court-martial does not permit an accused to
be represented by a physically present attorney.  However, a service member facing prosecution via SCM may consult with an attorney, either military or civilian, regarding his legal rights and to prepare a defense at trial.  If an accused
wishes, he or she may decline to be prosecuted by SCM and request that the case be referred to one of the other two levels of courts-martial instead where the accused is afforded more substantive rights, such as the rights to counsel and trial by jury
or military judge alone. 

Who is subject to trial by Summary Courts-Martial?

All enlisted service members may be prosecuted by summary courts-martial, including reserve, retired, or active status military personnel, as well as certain civilians who accompany the military during exercises.  However, service members who are
officers, cadets or midshipmen may not be prosecuted by summary courts-martial.  These ranking service members are only subject to prosecution by higher levels of courts-martial.

What kinds of crimes are prosecuted at the Summary Court-Martial?

The Summary Court-Martial is generally utilized to prosecute crimes that are considered minor instances of misconduct by enlisted persons.  Examples would include Absence without Leave (AWOL) for short durations; Failure to Obey Lawful General Orders;

What are the penalties or sentences that may be adjudged by a Summary Court-Martial?

A guilty finding following trial by SCM courts-martial carries a maximum penalty of 30 days confinement, forfeiture of 2/3 pay for one month, and reduction in rank: Soldiers with a grade of E-5 and above may be reduced by one grade;  Soldiers with
a grade of E-4 and below may be reduced to the lowest enlisted grade, or E-1