What is Military Law?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 March 2020
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Military law is the code of behavior required by all service members in a military organization. The term can also be used to describe a nation's laws about the building, maintenance, and use of a military. Military law can be significantly different from civilian law, with many rights and responsibilities given to military members that are not usually relevant to the civilian public.

There are many important areas that military law may cover. One of the most important basic areas of military law regards the formation, training, and procurement policies for each military branch. This type of structured law helps give the basic outline for how the military is organized and perpetuated, through strict standards of training, education, promotion, and supply management. A small military may have one overall code that lays out these regulations, while larger defense organizations, such as the US military, may have separate organizational laws for each branch of the military.

Other basic but important segments of military law may manage the pay and benefit schemes for all members. Since the military is essentially a giant state-run workplace, these laws work much as wage and benefit laws do for civilian workers. Similar to construction workers that receive hazard pay, military members may also qualify for regulated pay bonuses for doing especially dangerous jobs. Covered in wage and benefit laws are also issues such as permitted forms of leave and disability compensation.


One of the most important functions of military law is to define the behavior of the military while in combat. This is typically one of the longest and most detailed segments of military law, as it must cover behavior and actions in an incredibly wide variety of situations. Some of the issues managed under military law regarding combat and national defense might include the transfer of powers during war, the treatment of captured enemies, and regulations regarding security, information gathering, and military engagement actions.

Another significant area of law in the military is the management of military justice. Military courts deal with legal cases specific to the military, as civilian courts do not usually have the authority or expertise to interpret military law. Provisions of justice-related law in the military might include the management of trials, list of possible offenses and potential sentences, and the treatment of military members accused of a crime. These laws may also determine the jurisdiction of the courts, and include provisions to manage representation for the defendant.



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