Defense Lawyer for Court Martial


Did you recently receive an official Article 32 Investigation Hearing summons? Were you charged with a crime and served a notice of general, summary, or special court martial? Our military law firm handles court martial cases, defending service men and women across Texas, California, Arizona, Louisiana, Florida, and the USA. Our military lawyers defend people deployed or stationed overseas globally including middle east locations like Afghanistan and Iraq; locations in Asia like Japan and South Korea; and in Europe.


Your chain of command or others may all be putting pressure on you to accept a plea bargain in a court martial proceeding. It may even make sense for some servicemen and servicewomen who want out and don't care about the lifelong consequences of a court martial conviction. I urge you to contact a court martial lawyer who can defend you aggressively. I have decades of experience defending clients facing courts martial, in addition to experience as a Court Martial Judge Advocate and member of the US Marine Corps.

Our clients are hard chargers — they are willing to fight for their military careers and their futures in civilian life. If you are facing court martial charges and you know you need an independent advocate with the experience, skill, and dedication to fight by your side, call the office of attorney Patrick J. McLain today at (214) 761-6550 now to schedule an initial consultation. If you prefer, you can also send us an email online and we will get back to you asap.


Military criminal attorney Patrick J. McLain has skillfully handled hundreds of officer misconduct court martials, positive UAs, drug charges, and court martial appeal cases in his career. Our commitment is to fight with honor for your acquittal and to minimize the negative consequences to your future in all types of summary, special and general courts martial defense cases.


In general, just about any violation of UCMJ code, or allegation thereof, is eligible for prosecution via court martial. Some of the charges heard in a court martial that you will need a defense attorney for are below.

  • Fraud and Larceny: fraud and larceny charges in the military include robbery, theft of government property, theft by deceit, conspiracy to defraud the military, etc.
  • Sex Offenses: rape, sexual assault, solicitation, child pornography, etc.
  • Drug Crimes: drug charges defended in court martial include possession, distribution or sale of marijuana, meth, cocaine or other illegal substances as well as refusing or failing mandatory urinalysis (UA) testing
  • Conduct Offenses: insubordination, unauthorized absence (AWOL), fraternization, adultery, etc.
  • War Crimes: violating rules of engagement (ROE), rules of war, Geneva Convention, etc.
  • Assault and Violent Crime: simple assault, assaulting an officer, arson, murder, manslaughter, etc.


There are three types of courts-martial in every branch of the military. Each are comprised of a different combination of members, each distinguished by the severity of the case they try.

The three main types of courts-martial according to UCMJ Code 816 Article 16 court-martial classified include:

  1. General Court Martials
  2. Special Court Martials
  3. Summary Court Martials

General Courts-Martial: a general court martial is reserved for the most severe types of military crimes. Before a general courts-martial can take place, a preliminary investigation hearing must be conducted according to UCMJ Article. The accused soldier is allowed to waive the mandatory preliminary hearing if desired. A general courts-martial consists of either a military judge and five members of the military or only a military judge if the accused formally requests permission of a private trial from the military judge and he accepts. The maximum incarceration for a soldier convicted in a general courts-martial is life in prison or capital punishment (for some charges). Soldiers can be tried in a general court martial for bad conduct, dishonorable discharge, and dismissal for non-enlisted officers. If convicted in a general court martial, the accused may be forced to forfeit all pay and allowances.

Special Courts-Martial: a special courts-martial is the medium level court, reserved for military charges that are neither severe or that can be classified as minor. Any military officer facing a special courts-martial is not at risk of being jailed or kicked out of the military. However, non-officer soldiers facing special courts-martial can face up to a year in jail and lose a large chunk of their pay. A special courts-martial includes a military judge (prosecutor) and three members of the military or the accused can request to be tried by a single military judge. In addition the defendant in a general courts-martial is allowed to request that one third of the members of the courts-martial judiciary are enlisted members of the military and not career military. A non-officer soldier convicted at a special courts-martial can face up to a year of incarceration, can be discharged if found guilty of bad conduct, and can lose 2/3 of their pay for up to a year.

Summary Courts-Martial: a summary courts-martial hears the most minor charges. Summary courts-martial is tried before a single commissioned officer or Judge Advocate. The reason a soldier facing a general court martial would want to have a summary judgement from just one military judge is simple; the maximum punishment a single military judge can impose is far less severe than other types of courts-martial. The maximum term of confinement for a soldier facing summary courts-martial is up to 30 days, they cannot be discharged from the military for a conviction, and the maximum pay cut they can receive as punishment is 2/3 pay for up to one month.

In addition, cases can sometimes be subject to joint jurisdiction when the alleged crime violates both UCMJ and state laws. In those cases, the defendant will be tried before the courts-martial military court and before civilian state courts for criminal charges.


Are you a service member accused of violations under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice Act (UCMJ)? You will be required to attend a special military criminal trial called a court-martial. Courts-martial are serious and could end your military career as well as have significant impacts on your civilian life after you leave the military. It is important to have an experienced military law attorney who can protect your interests and your future.

Patrick J. McLain is a civilian military attorney with extensive experience defending military personnel against UCMJ violations. As a former marine and retired court-martial judge, he understands the court-martial process and the steps required to obtain a successful outcome. If you are facing a court-martial, contact our Dallas law office to schedule an initial consultation.


Like in any criminal trial, the court-martial process begins with an investigation of the accused to gather evidence. The military member's commander typically conducts these investigations. They can be as simple as reviewing a report or extensive as working with law enforcement agencies to uncover case information.

Once the investigation is complete, the commander may decide to prefer charges, which ultimately leads to a court-martial. In the preferral stage, the commander will sign under oath an official charge sheet.

One of three levels of courts-martial then handles the crime:

  • Summary: handles misdemeanor offenses
  • Special: handles crimes warranting no more than a bad-content discharge
  • General court-martial: handles serious criminal charges, such as sexual offenses


If a military criminal case is referred to a general court-martial, a hearing, as outlined in Article 32 of the UCMJ, precedes the actual trial. This hearing is referred to as an Article 32 investigation. During the hearing, the investigating officer and the accused's lawyer can ask questions and cross-examine witnesses in order to get more information before the actual trial starts. We can represent clients during this hearing and sensitive discovery phase. You will be given a choice of whether to waive your Article 32 rights. Do not waive your Article 32 rights, but make sure you have a civilian military lawyer like Patrick McLain on your side so that the government cannot use unfair or unreliable evidence against you.


The next stage is the selection of the court-martial panel, or jury. The accused and his or her attorney may select members to be on the court-martial panel.


The accused may decide to enter a plea in agreement to a lesser offense, or enter a guilty plea for some of the charges. Entering a plea must be voluntary and done in good faith. A service member is not eligible to enter a plea in a capital offense case.


If a plea is not entered and the military trial results in a conviction, a convening authority reviews the result. In many cases involving a general court-martial the Service Judge Advocate General reviews the case. The Army Court of Appeals or a similar body will review the case if the conviction results in a dishonorable discharge or more than one year in confinement. The reviewing bodies will determine if the case was conducted in good order and make sure the punishment is appropriate for the crime.


For more information regarding the courts-martial process, please contact our military law office to speak with experienced lawyer Patrick J. McLain.

In serving your country, you are held to a higher standard of ethics than many civilians. You deserve the same high standard on your defense team. As a retired military law judge, court martial defense attorney Patrick J. McLain understands the system and what is necessary to acquit individuals facing court martial charges.

To schedule a consultation with a knowledgeable and dedicated defense lawyer for court martial, contact Patrick J. McLain today.