Acceptance of Pleas and Entering Findings in a Court-Martial

Laws on Guilty Pleas in a Military Courts-Martial

Findings Entered Upon Acceptance of Plea

Ordinarily, a military judge will enter findings upon acceptance of the accused’s guilty plea, but not if the trial counsel intends to “prove up” a greater offense. See United States v. Baker , 28 M.J. 900 (A.C.M.R. 1989) The military judge who knew that trial counsel intended to prove rape improperly entered findings pursuant to pleas of guilty to lesser included offense of carnal knowledge.

Refusal of Military Judge to Accept Pleas

For a plea to be inconsistent with factual and legal guilt, there must be more than the possibility of a defense. However, if the accused raises an inconsistency the MJ must resolve it. United States v. Johnson, 25 M.J. 553 (C.M.A. 1987). If accused’s comments or any other evidence reasonably raises a defense, military judge must explain elements of defense to accused. It is not relevant that comments are not credible; the sole question is whether accused made a statement during the trial that was in conflict with his plea. (1)

Can I change my plea to not guilty in a military court-martial?

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Effect of Refusal to Accept Guilty Plea

Plea(s) of not guilty entered on behalf of accused.

No automatic recusal of military judge; however in a trial by military judge alone, refusal of the request for trial by military judge alone will normally be necessary when a plea is rejected or withdrawn after findings. RCM 910(h)(2)Discussion. United States v. Rhule , 53 M.J. 647 (A. Ct. Crim. App. 2000) (finding the Army preference is for the MJ to recuse himself)

Use of testimony gained from “busted” (unsuccessful) providence inquiry.

RCM 910(e) allows for accused to be prosecuted for making false statements during a providence inquiry.

M.R.E. 410(a) addresses the “Inadmissibility of Pleas, Plea Discussions, and Related Statements” made during the course of “any judicial inquiry” regarding a plea of guilty which is later withdrawn. M.R.E. 410(a) goes on to state, however, that such statement(s) are admissible “in any proceeding wherein another statement made in the course of the same plea or plea discussions has been introduced and the statement ought in fairness be considered contemporaneously with it.” See United States v. Doran , 564 F.2d 1176 (5th Cir. 1977), cert. denied , 435 U.S. 928 (1978). See also United States v. Mezzanato , 513 U.S. 196 (1995) Statements made during plea negotiations admissible where accused decided to plead not guilty and understood the nature of agreement.

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Accused’s Withdrawal of Guilty Plea

Information on the accused‘s withdrawal of guilty plea: RCM 910(h)(1).

  • Prior to acceptance by military judge—A matter of right.
  • Prior to announcement of sentence—For good cause only.
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