Home Law Military Law: How Does It Differ from Civil Law?

Military Law: How Does It Differ from Civil Law?

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A law is a governing rule or regulation that people must abide by. Certain bodies, territories, and organizations put certain laws in place to maintain order and discipline. Both the military and civilians have laws in place, but there are differences between the two. This article will shed light on some of the differences between civil and military law. This will help you understand how the military operates and also help you know your rights as a civilian.

Military law differs from civil law in the following ways:

  • Jurisdiction

Military law applies to those who are part of the military, while civil law applies to the entire population of a country and encompasses a wide range of legal matters that influence the country at large.

  • Uniform Code of Military Justice

UCMJ are specific statutes or codes that govern military law. These codes outline the obligations and rights of military personnel as well as certain procedures for disciplinary actions and military trials. Whenever a person is found guilty of an offense, they are judged according to the law. So, to prove their innocence, they should consult a good military attorney who would help them. This attorney will ensure that they have a fair judgment or a reduced sentence.

For civil law, it is generally governed by a country’s legal system. That is, a civilian who commits a crime is judged by the set of rules put in place by the country about the crime committed.

  • Chain of Command

In military law, there is what is known as a hierarchical structure. It shows the distribution of authority by high-ranking officers and the military. You can read this post to learn more about the structure of the military hierarchy. Members of the armed forces are liable for the discipline and orders of their seniors. Also, because of the hierarchical structure and the level of order, the law has provided a mechanism that gives room to implement obedience and the maintenance of military discipline, while in civil law the chain doesn’t exist in that manner.

Under civil law, a civilian has rights, and these rights are translated to layman’s terms with the assistance of a lawyer. A civilian cannot be arrested and put in prison without evidence or a warrant. A civilian is only convicted of the crime committed, while someone in the military, if arrested, is guilty until proven otherwise. Military personnel have no rights to a personal attorney except the one provided by the military. They can be arrested without a warrant, and the person has to cooperate or end up facing additional charges.

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  • Military Tribunals and Courts

Military law has its own tribunals and courts that handle every case that involves military personnel. This court is known as a court martial. Click here to learn about their function. These courts have jurisdiction over the crimes committed by military personnel, and they follow due procedures that are in line with military justice, but the court system of civil law is different as they deal with almost all criminal offenses.

  • Adjudication

The cases dealt with under military law are judged by military judges or a panel made up of military officers. These officers are often experts in military law. The adjudication process might include general, special, or summary courts-martials. The severity of the offense determines the process that will be used.

Civil law cases, on the other hand, are adjudicated by a judge or jury. The option used depends on the type of case and jurisdiction involved. The parties involved have the right to legal counsel representation, the presentation of evidence, and the use of witnesses to prove their case.


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