A commanding officer (CO) has the legal authority to impose non-judicial punishment. The CO also has many other legal responsibilities that in civilian life are limited to law enforcement personnel, including authorizing searches and seizures of property; making the initial determination to confine an accused; and exercising prosecutorial discretion. In exercising discretion, a CO may dismiss charges; effect non-punitive measures; impose non-judicial punishment; or refer a matter to court-martial.
In referring a matter to court-martial, the CO becomes the convening authority. As such, the CO decides what charges to refer to the court-martial; what type of court-martial will be held; and selects the court-martial members (jury).
Additionally, the convening authority may negotiate pretrial agreements; grant immunity to witnesses; disapprove findings; and grant clemency on the sentence.
These powers are not absolute. Commanding officers and convening authorities are governed in their actions by the UCMJ, the Manual for Courts-Martial (MCM) and the Manual of the Judge Advocate General (JAGMAN).
Know All Your Legal Rights and Benefits
Be aware and get what you are entitled to. Keep up with all the legal benefits available to you as a service member, veteran or spouse and get updates delivered straight to your inbox by subscribing to Military.com.