Commanding Officers Convening Authority

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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).

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