Military Law vs. Civilian Law: What’s the Difference?

If you are considering moving into the military, you need to understand the similarities and differences between military and civilian law. To help you make that decision, we have outlined some differences.

Army JAG

In the cases of a civilian court, the defendant is assigned a public defender or gets the chance of hiring a private attorney. In the army, their public defenders are known as military JAG attorneys. JAG attorneys are active military members with the experience, training, and expertise to serve as attorneys. They are the only experts allowed to represent military members.

Some JAG attorneys choose to continue practicing law after military service. This has proved vital, especially in the case of civilian court-martial cases. Such professionals are important because they are aware of both military court and civilian procedures.


Typically, lawyers are professionals who have received considerable training in their particular field of expertise. After graduating from law school, they will sit for their bar exams and be accredited as a member of the bar. It is then that such a professional can practice law in that state.

For JAG lawyers/ military lawyers, there is a need for additional training. JAG training is important so that military lawyers can appreciate and acknowledge previous cases and know how to defend and protect their clients during military proceedings.


Appeals allow for either the defendant or plaintiff to ask for the ruling of a court case to be reevaluated. In both military and civil cases, appeals are allowed. In civilian cases, once a case is successfully appealed, it could be pushed forward either to the appellate circuit court or to the federal level.

For the military, things are a little different. The process for appeals differs for each military branch. Each branch has its own provisions on the bureaucracy and the time between cases. The military is very strict on the following of these proceedings. It is impossible for any rung in the proceedings to be skipped.

The jury

The constitution allows for a jury of 12 members who are the defendant’s peers. The pool for the jury is normal Americans from whom the court chooses from. Things are a bit different in military court.

Military juries are a bit fewer. The number can vary from 3 to 12. The exact number is never defined and is decided upon on a case-by-case basis. The pool for military juries are usually commissioned officers. This is however not set in stone. The defendant can make a request to have enlisted members as the jury members.


Similar to civilian cases, military attorneys are responsible for expertly handling and representing the rights and protections of military members. Military lawyers are required to join the military and undergo additional training.

If you are looking for more information on military training and advice, we recommend that you peruse our related articles. You will be enriched with the information therein and be able to make a decision on your future.