The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) provides the backbone for military law in the United States. When a member of the armed forces commits a crime, no matter what the severity of the infraction, the UCMJ dictates what will happen next. What type of court-martial will occur: summary, special, or general? What punishments suit the crime? How can the accused appeal the verdict? The UCMJ provides the answers to all of these questions. Today we're focusing on Articles 77 through 134: the punitive articles of the UCMJ.
Punitive Articles of the UCMJ
Each of the punitive articles of the UCMJ contains six parts:
- Text: The text of the statute, which is approved by Congress, describes the offense. The subsequent elements of the article expand upon this simple start.
- Elements: The elements are specific parts of the offense. The government must prove all of the elements beyond a reasonable doubt in order to demonstrate the accused's guilt.
- Explanation: The explanation provides clarification by defining terms and expanding upon the elements. Lengthier than the previous two sections, it goes into greater detail and may clarify elements of the article disputed in previous courts-martial.
- Lesser Included Offenses: Even if the accused is not found guilty of the primary offense for which the article was written, they may be found guilty of a lesser offense. For example, a member of the military found not guilty of murder could still be found guilty of manslaughter, a lesser included offense.
- Maximum Permissible Punishments: The UCMJ controls the maximum punishment a person may receive if he or she is found guilty of the offense. The punishment may include a reduction of pay grade, dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of pay and allowances, confinement, or even death.
- Sample Specifications: The sample specifications section provides an example description using the proper terms and leaving spaces for information specific to the case. For example, this is the sample specification for mutiny by refusing to obey orders or perform duties: “In that _____ (personal jurisdiction data), with intent to (usurp)(override)(usurp and override) lawful military authority, did, (at/on board– location) on or about _____ 20__, refuse in concert with _____ (and _____) (others whose names are unknown), to (obey the orders of _____ to _____) (perform his/her duty as _____).
The punitive articles of the UCMJ contain numerous offenses – so many, in fact, that we won't bore you by listing them all here. However, some well-known offenses include the following:
- Conspiracy (Article 81)
- Desertion (Article 85)
- AWOL (Article 86)
- Failure to Obey an Order (Article 92)
- Mutiny and Sedition (Article 94)
- Aiding the Enemy (Article 104)
- Spies (Article 106)
- Espionage (Article 106a)
- Murder (Article 118)
- Rape (Article 120)
- Robbery (Article 122)
- Arson (Article 126)
- Assault (Article 128)
- Burglary (Article 129)
Preparing for a Court-Martial
If you or someone you know is preparing for a court-martial, contact the top-quality lawyers at Newsom & Gapasin. Whether you're under investigation, facing a court-martial, or seeking an appeal, our experienced and aggressive law firm would be happy to help. We focus on winning tough cases, some of which have been reported on by national media outlets like CNN, Fox News, Time, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. For more information, please give us a call at 1-(888) 919-8265 . You could also send an e-mail to [email protected] or click here to contact us online. We look forward to hearing from you!