Military Legal Glossary


A person who is charged with an offense under military code.


Any person who signs and swears to charges, any person who directs that charges be signed and sworn to by another.


A self-incriminatory statement falling short of a complete acknowledgment of guilt.

Appellate Review

The after review of the record of trial by a judge advocate and action by the convening authority.


The taking of a person into custody.


The reading of the charges and specifications to the accused or the waiver of their reading, coupled with the request that the accused enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.


Moral restraint imposed on a person by oral or written orders of the competent authority limiting the person’s personal liberty pending disposition of the charges.

Arrest in Quarters

Moral restraint limiting an officer’s liberty, imposed as a non-judicial punishment by a flag or general officer in command.

Article 15

An article of the Uniform Code of Military Justice providing a procedure for investigating and punishing minor misconduct by military members.

Article 39a Session

A session of a court-martial called by the military judge either before the members are seated or after that phase of the trial has begun.

Bad Conduct Discharge

One of two types of punitive discharges that may be imposed on an enlisted person.

Bench Trial

Based on a request by the accused, a trial where the military judge hears the evidence, determines guilt and imposes a sentence.

Capital Offense

An offense for which the maximum punishment includes the death penalty.


Formal objection to a member of the court or the military judge being allowed to continue to sit on a court-martial.


A formal statement explaining the article of the Uniform code of Military Justice which the accused I alleged to have violated.

Charge and Specification

A description in writing of the offense that the accused is alleged to have committed.


Discretionary action by person authorized to reduce the severity of the sentence.


The authority that a commander in military service lawfully exercises over his/her subordinates by virtue of being placed in command by a superior officer.

Constructive Knowledge

Knowledge which may be found to have existed because the regulation, notice, fact, or directive at issue was of so notorious a nature, or was so conspicuously posted or distributed, that the particular accused ought to have known of its existence.

Convening Authority

The officer who has authority to convene a court-martial.

Convening Order

The document by which a court-martial is created. It specifies the type of court and lists the time and place of meeting, the names of the members, counsel, and the authority by which the court-martial is created.


A military tribunal composed of one or more members of the Armed Forces.

Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces

A civilian appellate court composed of five judges appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

Court of Criminal Appeals

A military appellate court composed of not less than three officers or civilians that reviews records of certain courts-martial.

Dereliction of Duty

Willfully or negligently failing to perform assigned duties or performing them in a culpably inefficient manner.

Dishonorable Discharge

The most severe punitive discharge, reserved for those who should be separated under conditions of dishonor, after having been convicted of offenses usually recognized by the civil law as felonies or military offenses requiring severe punishment.


The punitive discharge imposed on officers and warrant officers.


Words, acts, omissions that are synonymous with contempt and amount to behavior or language which detracts from the respect due to the authority and person of a superior.

Defense Counsel

A judge advocate who represents a military member in any adverse actions, or a civilian defense counsel retained by you.


The essential ingredients of an offense that are to be proven at the trial.

Judge Advocate

An officer who is admitted to the bar of the highest court of any State or federal court and has been designated as a judge advocate.

Legal Officer

Any commissioned officer of the Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard designated to perform legal duties of a command.

Manual for Courts-Martial

Provides procedures for the practice of military law, such as the Rules for Courts-Martial and the Military Rules of Evidence.

Matter in Aggravation

Any circumstance serving to explain the commission of the offense, including the reasons that motivated the accused, but not extending to a legal justification.

Matter in Mitigation

Any circumstance which is introduced for the purpose of lessening the punishment to be awarded by a court or to serve as grounds for a reduction of that sentence in clemency.

Military Judge

The commissioned officer who acts as the judge in courts-martial.

Minor Offense

An offense for which confinement of less than one year is authorized.


The failure to exercise the care, prudence, or attention to duties that the interests of the government require to be exercised by a prudent and reasonable person under the circumstances.

Non-judicial Punishment

Punishment imposed under the Article 15 for minor offenses.

Pretrial Agreement

An agreement between the accused and the convening authority, usually to limit the amount of punishment that can be imposed in a court-martial in return for a plea of guilty to some or all of the charges.

Pretrial Investigation

An investigation under Article 32, UCMJ that is required before convening a General Court-Martial.

President of the Panel

The senior ranking member of a court-martial panel.

Punitive Articles

Articles 77 through 134 of the UCMJ. These articles generally describe various crimes and state how they may be punished.

Referral of Charges

The action of the convening authority in directing that a particular case be tried by a court-martial.


Action by proper authority interrupting the execution of a punishment and canceling out the punishment remaining to be served.

Restriction in Lieu of Arrest

Moral restraint, less severe than arrest.

Set Aside

Action by proper authority voiding the proceedings and the punishment awarded and restoring all rights, privileges, and property lost by virtue of the punishment imposed.


Action by proper authority to withhold the execution of a punishment for a probationary period.

Trial Counsel

The judge advocate who serves as the prosecutor in courts-martial.

Uniform Code of Military Justice

Referred to as the “UCMJ”, it forms the basis for military criminal law. It contains the requirements for jurisdiction, trial procedure, sentencing, appeals, and non-judicial punishment.