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What Is Military Law?

Military law is the branch of law that regulates a government¿s military establishment. Military law is entirely disciplinary by nature and analogous to civilian criminal law. It is a part of United States body of law as a whole and recognized fully by civil courts. Military law governs anyone serving in the armed forces at all times.

How Does Military Law Differ from Civilian Law?

When someone joins the United States Military, he or she is subject to a different legal system. The main difference between the United States civilian justice system and the Armed Forces system are their respective purposes. The purpose for the U.S. civilian legal system is to provide justice. The purpose of the military legal system is to provide military commanders with tools to enforce good order and discipline. For instance, it is not a crime for a civilian to be late to work, but it is a crime for military personnel to be late to work.

Where Do the Grounds for Military Law Come from?

Military law actually predates the United States and its Constitution. However, since the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, it is still the primary source of law governing military law. Other sources include:

  • International law affecting the law of war from treaties
  • Uniform Code of Military Justice
  • Executive orders
  • Service regulations
  • Usages and customs of the Armed Forces and of war
  • Military court decisions

Disciplinary Actions

The military uses several methods to ensure good order and discipline, not all of which require a hearing:

  • Reprimands and Admonitions
  • Counselings
  • Unfavorable Information Files
  • Administrative Demotions
  • Administrative Discharges
  • Court Martial

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Consequences under military law are just as serious as they are under civilian law. You are entitled, by law, to have a military attorney appointed to represent you in any criminal or administrative action which has been initiated against you. Although it can be denied, you also have a right to request a specific military attorney in a Court-Martial. In some cases, you may be able to hire a civilian attorney with military law experience. Consulting with a military law attorney would be prudent. An experienced lawyer could help explain defenses and resolve the claim against you.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 06-19-2018 07:52 PM PDT

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