UCMJ Article 134 – The Most Punitive of the Punitive Articles?
Those who serve or have served in the military know full well that there is separate system of justice that applies to them. Every service member from the lowest ranking joe to the highest flying general can tell you about their or others’ run in with some commander and the UCMJ, Uniform Code of Military Justice.
In most cases run ins with the UCMJ occur under Article 15 of the UCMJ, the proverbial Commanding Officer’s Nonjudicial Punishment. This article grants commanding officers, typically via the suggestions of a higher enlisted, the authority to impose some sort of punishment for a wide variety of infractions. For example, if a soldier is habitually late to formation an Article 15 punishment might follow to help “correct” the tardiness.
The Harsher Side of the UCMJ
If an Article 15 is the most you have seen of the UCMJ, consider yourself lucky. Because it is a military code of justice, it places much more emphasis on justice and law than mercy. Of course this is for good reason because much of the military’s success relies on the discipline of soldiers following orders and regulations. The stick of the UCMJ that enforces that standard is affectionately known as the Punitive Articles.
Punitive from the Latin punire means simply – to punish. Subchapter ten of the UCMJ is where the major crimes and infractions punishable by the UCMJ can be found. Covered within those articles are criminal activities ranging from attempts and conspiracies to drunk driving and even murder. These articles are all encompassing, and if you are serving in the military it might be a good idea to read through them to understand what is at stake. For example, Article 113 describes what can happen to any sentinel who is drunk or found asleep while at his post. You might be surprised at what one of the potential punishments are (death if committed in times of war).
Of course if you have ever been asleep while deployed and with the hope that the private on duty is actually scanning the horizon while on guard, you understand why these articles are so severe. But within the Punitive Articles is a sort of catch all that has been interpreted over the years to include such behavior as adultery, Article 134. Now that article has gained some national press over the prosecution of an Air Force officer who is charged with committing adultery.
The Catch All Charge
Article 134 of the UCMJ is the General Article, and punishes behavior which brings discredit upon the armed forces, or which prejudices the good order and discipline therein. Military courts have interpreted this to mean, in part, that adultery is outlawed in the military. As a stand alone charge, adultery in violation of Article 134 is not often brought to bear. But military prosecutors will include it among other charges when someone is charged with sexual misconduct and they want it to act as leverage to get a conviction or guilty plea.
In the case of the Air Force officer charged with violating Article 134, he is also charged with rape, assault, and committing lewd acts. His defense team is trying to have Article 134 as applied to charges of adultery be thrown out and declared unconstitutional. They base their argument on the fact that these charges are only directed at heterosexuals, and therefore unfairly applied.
Understanding Your Rights and Defense Options
If you are facing charges under the UCMJ, or other federal laws, you need the right Dallas military defense attorney representing your interests. Jeff King has years of experience not only defending UCMJ and federal charges, but prosecuting them as well. It is this unique perspective and experience that will give your defense the edge it needs. Contact us today and we will help you understand what your rights and options are.