Court Martial Meaning

Discover the definition and significance of court martial proceedings for military personnel. Learn about the types, procedures, examples, and statistics.


A court martial is a legal proceeding for military personnel accused of committing offenses under military law. It is a separate legal system from civilian courts and follows a different set of rules and procedures.

Types of Court Martial

  • Summary Court Martial
  • Special Court Martial
  • General Court Martial


The accused is provided with legal representation and has the right to present evidence and witnesses in their defense. The court martial panel, consisting of military officers, decides on a verdict and sentencing.


Court martials ensure discipline and order within the military ranks and uphold the integrity of the armed forces. They also serve to protect the rights of military personnel and maintain the effectiveness of the military justice system.


An example of a court martial case is the trial of Army Private Bradley Manning for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks. Manning was convicted and sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Case Studies

In the case of US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who deserted his post in Afghanistan, a court martial was convened to determine his guilt. Bergdahl pleaded guilty and received a dishonorable discharge.


According to the Pentagon, there were 1,672 court martial cases in the US military in 2020, with the majority involving charges of drug use, sexual assault, and desertion.

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