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General Court Martial (GCM)

A GCM is the highest level military trial court. It is used to dispose of the most serious offenses. The Convening Authority is generally the Division or Corps Commander or service equivalent. As with a SPCM, a GCM conviction can be considered a Federal criminal conviction. A GCM is composed of a military judge sitting alone or not less than five members and a military judge. As with an SCM, the accused has the right to choose the composition of the court-martial.

A military judge or panel in a GCM can impose a wide range of punishments up to the maximum authorized punishment allowed for the offense to include: confinement; reprimand; forfeitures of up to all pay and allowances; reduction to the lowest enlisted pay grade; punitive discharge (bad-conduct discharge, dishonorable discharge, or dismissal); restriction; fines; and, for certain offenses, death. In a panel case a sentence of confinement in excess of 10 years may only be imposed with the concurrence of three-fourths of all the members of the court-martial. A sentence of death may only be imposed with the concurrence of all members of the court-martial.

Prior to convening a general court-martial, a pretrial investigation known as an Article 32 must be conducted to ensure that there is a basis for prosecution. The Article 32 is presided over by an investigating officer (IO), who must be in the grade of O4 or higher or have legal training. The Article 32 is somewhat akin to the civilian grand jury process, but unlike a grand jury, the accused is entitled to military defense counsel and/or retained civilian counsel; and is given the opportunity to examine the evidence presented against him or her, cross-examine witnesses, and present his or her own witnesses, evidence and arguments. When the Article 32 investigation is complete, the IO makes a recommendation to the convening authority through the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate (SJA). The SJA then provides a formal recommendation as to the disposition of the charges. The convening authority will then make a determination as to whether to convene a court-martial or dismiss the charges. It is extremely rare for an IO to recommend that charges be dismissed or for a convening authority to totally dismiss charges after an Article 32 investigation.

In some Jurisdictions, Regional Defense Counsel or Area Defense Counsel will not detail a GCM to a Defense Counsel (DC) until the DC has second chaired a number of GCMs and tried a number of SCMs. Accordingly, representation at a GCM should only be undertaken by highly experienced military or civilian counsel. Steven Krupa has represented soldiers at GCM as detailed military counsel and retained civilian counsel. He has tried GCM cases to panels in Army and Navy courts. He is available for consultation by contacting our office.

Tacoma Criminal Defense Attorneys


The team at Krupa & Clark are excited to announce some new changes in our practice.  Steven Krupa will be leaving the firm to explore new opportunities effective June 30, 2020.  As of June 1, 2020, the name of the firm will be changed to the Law Offices of Michael Clark.  The firm will continue to focus on helping people who have been injured through the negligence of others, as well as other matters. The team, and especially Michael Clark, want to thank Steven for his years of dedicated service to his clients and the greater bar association, as well as for his friendship. We are proud of our association with Steve and look forward to seeing what the next chapter has in store for him.

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