A court martial is practiced mostly in the cases of occurrence of violation and infringement of military discipline. There are some countries like Germany and France which do not practice court martial where as some countries still use this court for the trial of prisoners of war subjected to war crime.
There are three types of court martial in the military court hierarchy which is Summary court martial, General court martial and the last one being Special court martial. These are described in brief as below:
Summary Court Martial
In the summary court martial, only minor incidents like misconduct are tried for a resolution of charges by a simple method. This court consists of only one officer, a judge advocate and a military attorney. These professionals use service policies and practices for providing resolution on the issues being considered as violation of military laws. The punishment assigned by the summary court martial is considerably soft than that of other two military courts.
Special Court Martial
The intermediate court, which lies between summary court and the general court, is a special court martial. The jury consists of a military judge along with a trial counsel called prosecutor, a defense counsel and at least minimum three officers to incorporate a panel of jury as court members.
Here an accused military officer or equivalent is provided with a right to either request a trial by judge only or with a court composed of minimum one third enlisted jury. The maximum punishment a special court martial is limited and cannot exceed more than 12 months of forfeiture. But special court martial does not possess the power and right to dismiss an accused officer from the services or confined.
General Court Martial
The highest level of the military court hierarchy is the general court martial. This is the military court where accused who have committed serious crimes are brought for trial. The jury consists of a military judge, a defense counsel, a trial counsel along with a panel of minimum five members to incorporate a panel of jury as court members.
Even in this court the accused is granted with a right to have a trial with a court composed of minimum one third enlisted juries and if in such a case where death sentence could be given, the accused officer is granted the right to request a trial by judge only. The maximum punishment granted by a general court martial depends upon the manual for court martial and can be even death following a dismissal, a confinement, a dishonor etc. depending upon the extent of crime practiced.