military law, system of rules established for the government of persons in the armed forces. In most countries the legislature establishes the code of military law. It is distinguished from both martial law (rule by domestic military forces over an area) and military government (rule by the military over occupied foreign territory). The scope of military law differs somewhat in peace and in war. In time of peace it is generally limited to military offenses—e.g., absence without leave, desertion, breach of orders; during war it usually extends to crimes of a civil nature as well, and the penalties may be more severe.
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