The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ, 64 United States Statutes at Large 109, 10 U.S.C. Chapter 47), is the foundation of military law in the United States. It was established by the United States Congress in accordance with the authority given by the United States Constitution in Article I, Section 8, which provides that "The Congress shall have Power....To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval forces."
Courts-martial are conducted under the UCMJ and the Manual for Courts-Martial United States. If the trial results in a conviction, the case is reviewed by the convening authority – the commanding officer who referred the case for trial by court-martial. The convening authority has discretion to mitigate the findings and sentence, set aside convictions, and/or to remand convictions and/or sentences back to a court-martial for re-hearing.
If the sentence, as approved by the convening authority, includes death, a bad conduct discharge, a dishonorable discharge, dismissal of an officer, or confinement for one year or more, the case is reviewed by an intermediate court. There are four such courts – the Army Court of Criminal Appeals, the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals, the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals, and the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals.
After review by any of these intermediate courts, the next level of appeal is the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF). The Supreme Court of the United States has discretion under 28 U.S.C. § 1259 to review cases under the UCMJ on direct appeal where the CAAF has conducted a mandatory review (death penalty and certified cases), granted discretionary review of a petition, or otherwise granted relief. If the CAAF denies a petition for review or a writ appeal, consideration by the Supreme Court may be obtained only through collateral review (e.g., a writ of habeas corpus). Since 2007, several bills have been introduced into Congress to expand the accessibility of service members to the Supreme Court. See also Equal Justice for United States Military Personnel legislation.
The UCMJ allows for personal jurisdiction over all members of the Uniformed services of the United States: the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps, and Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. The Coast Guard is administered under Title 14 of the United States Code when not operating as part of the U.S. Navy. However, commissioned members of the NOAA and PHS are only subject to the UCMJ when attached or detailed to a military unit or are militarized by presidential executive order.
Members of the military Reserve Components under Title 10 of the United States Code (Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Marine Forces Reserve, and Air Force Reserve) or Title 14 of the United States Code, Coast Guard Reserve when not operating as part of the U.S. Navy, are subject to the UCMJ if they are either (a) active duty Full-Time Support personnel such as FTS or Active Guard and Reserve (AGR), or (b) traditional part-time reservists performing either (i) full-time active duty for a specific period (i.e., Annual Training, Active Duty for Training, Active Duty for Operational Support, Active Duty Special Work, One Year Recall, Three Year Recall, Canvasser Recruiter, Mobilization, etc.), or (ii) performing Inactive Duty (i.e. Inactive Duty Training, Inactive Duty Travel and Training, Unit Training Assembly, Additional Training Periods, Additional Flying Training Periods, Reserve Management Periods, etc., all of which are colloquially known as "drills").
Soldiers and airmen in the National Guard of the United States are subject to the UCMJ only if activated in a Federal capacity under Title 10 by an executive order issued by the President or during their Annual Training periods, which are orders issued under Title 10. Otherwise, members of the National Guard of the United States are exempt from the UCMJ. However, under Title 32 orders, National Guard soldiers are still subject to their respective state codes of Military Justice.
Cadets and midshipmen at the United States Military Academy, United States Naval Academy, United States Air Force Academy, and United States Coast Guard Academy are also subject to the UCMJ. On the other hand, Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) cadets and midshipmen are by law exempt from the UCMJ (even while on active duty for training such as CTLT, LTC, LDAC, or while attending various training schools such as Airborne School, Air Assault School, Mountain Warfare School, etc.).
Members of military auxiliaries such as the Civil Air Patrol and the Coast Guard Auxiliary are not subject to the UCMJ, even when participating in missions assigned by the military or other branches of government. However, members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary can be called by the Commandant of the Coast Guard into the Temporary Reserve, in which case they become subject to the UCMJ.
Retired members of the uniformed services who are entitled to retirement pay are also subject to the UCMJ, as are retired reservists who are receiving hospital care in the VA system, prisoners of war in the custody of the U.S. armed forces, and detained medical personnel and chaplains in the custody of the U.S. armed forces, and persons in custody of the armed forces serving a sentence imposed by a court-martial.
Under Article 15 of the Code (Subchapter III), military commanders have the authority to exercise non-judicial punishment (NJP) over their subordinates for minor breaches of discipline. These punishments are carried out after a hearing before the commander, but without a judge or jury. Punishments are limited to reduction in rank, loss of pay, restrictions of privileges, extra-duty, reprimands, and, aboard ships, confinement. Guidelines for the imposition of NJP are contained in Part V of the Manual for Courts-Martial United States and the various service regulations.
Complaints of wrongs and loss of property
Article 138 of the UCMJ provides that any service member may bring a complaint of wrongs against their commanding officer to the officer exercising general court-martial authority over the commander. That officer will investigate the complaint of wrongs and then report the findings of the investigation to the service Secretary (e.g., Secretary of the Army, Navy, Air Force) concerned.
Article 139 (10 U.S.C. § 939) provides for the convening of an investigation board of from one to three commissioned officers to investigate and adjudicate claims of willful damage, destruction, or theft of personal property, only if both parties are subject to the Code.
Effective upon its ratification in 1789, Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution provided that Congress has the power to regulate the land and naval forces. On 10 April 1806, the United States Congress enacted 101 Articles of War, which were not significantly revised until over a century later. Discipline in the sea services was provided under the Articles for the Government of the Navy (commonly referred to as Rocks and Shoals). While the Articles of War evolved during the first half of the twentieth century, being amended in 1916, 1920, and culminating with the substantial reforms in the 1948 version pursuant to the Selective Service Act of 1948 (a/k/a the Elston Act) (Pub.L. 80-759, 62 Stat. 604), its naval counterpart remained little changed by comparison. The military justice system continued to operate under the Articles of War and Articles for the Government of the Navy until 31 May 1951, when the Uniform Code of Military Justice went into effect.
The UCMJ was passed by Congress on 5 May 1950, signed into law by President Harry S. Truman, and became effective on 31 May 1951. The word Uniform in the Code's title refers to the congressional intent to make military justice uniform or consistent among the armed services. This is in contrast with most "Uniform Acts" in the United States, which are state statutes adopted from model laws drafted by the NCCUSL in an effort to create consistency across state lines.
The UCMJ, the Rules of Court Martial (the military analogue to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure), and the Military Rules of Evidence (the analogue to the Federal Rules of Evidence) have continually evolved since implementation, often paralleling the development of the federal civilian criminal justice system. In some ways, the UCMJ has been ahead of changes in the civilian criminal justice system; for example, a rights-warning statement similar to the now-familiar Miranda warnings (and required in more contexts than in the civilian world where it is applicable only to custodial interrogation) was required by Art. 31 (10 U.S.C. § 831) a decade and a half before the Supreme Court ruled in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966); Article 38(b) (10 U.S.C. § 838(b)), continued the 1948 Articles of War's guarantee of qualified defense counsel to be provided to all accused without regard to indigence (and at earlier stages than required in civilian jurisdictions), whereas the Supreme Court only guaranteed the provision of counsel indigents in Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963). Additionally, the role of what was originally a court-martial's non-voting "law member" developed into the present office of military judge whose capacity is little different from that of an Article III judge in a U.S. district court. At the same time, the 'court-martial' itself (the panel of officers hearing the case and weighing the evidence) has converted from being essentially a board of inquiry/review presiding over the trial, into a jury of military service-members. The current version of the UCMJ is printed in latest edition of the Manual for Courts-Martial (2012), incorporating changes made by the President (executive orders) and National Defense Authorization Acts of 2006 and 2007.
The UCMJ is found in Title 10, Subtitle A, Part II, Chapter 47 of the United States Code.
|I||General Provisions||§ 801||1–6|
|II||Apprehension and Restraint||§ 807||7–14|
|III||Non-Judicial Punishment||§ 815||15|
|IV||Court-Martial Jurisdiction||§ 816||16–21|
|V||Composition of Courts-Martial||§ 822||22–29|
|VI||Pre-Trial Procedure||§ 830||30–35|
|VII||Trial Procedure||§ 836||36–54|
|IX||Post-Trial Procedure and Review of Courts-Martial||§ 859||59–76|
|X||Punitive Articles||§ 877||77–134|
|XI||Miscellaneous Provisions||§ 935||135–140|
|XII||Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces||§ 941||141–146|
Subchapter I, "General Provisions" has six sections (articles):
|§ 802||2||Persons subject to this chapter|
|§ 803||3||Jurisdiction to try certain personnel|
|§ 804||4||Dismissed officer's right to trial by court-martial|
|§ 805||5||Territorial applicability of this chapter|
|§ 806||6||Judge advocates and legal officers|
|§ 806a||6a||Investigation and disposition of matters pertaining to the fitness of military judges|
Article 1 (Definitions), defines the following terms used in the rest of the UCMJ: Judge Advocate General, the Navy, officer in charge, superior commissioned officer, cadet, midshipman, military, accuser, military judge, law specialist, legal officer, judge advocate, record, classified information, and national security. This article also provides that "The Navy, the Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard when it is operating as a service in the Navy, shall be considered as one armed force" for the purposes of the UCMJ.
|§ 830||30||Charges and specifications|
|§ 831||31||Compulsory self-incrimination prohibited|
|§ 833||33||Forwarding of charges|
|§ 834||34||Advice of staff judge advocate and reference for trial|
|§ 835||35||Service of charges|
Under Article 31, coercive self-incrimination is prohibited as a right under the Fifth Amendment. Arresting officers utilize the Article 31 warning and waiver as a means to prevent this self-incrimination, much like the Miranda warning. Article 31 was already well-established before Miranda.
Article 32 refers to the pre-trial investigation and hearing conducted before charges are referred to trial for court-martial. It may be conducted by a Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer or non-JAG officer.
Subchapter X, "Punitive Articles," is the subchapter that details offenses under the uniform code:
|§ 878||78||Accessory after the fact|
|§ 879||79||Conviction of lesser included offense|
|§ 883||83||Fraudulent enlistment, appointment, or separation|
|§ 884||84||Unlawful enlistment, appointment, or separation|
|§ 886||86||Absence without leave|
|§ 887||87||Missing movement|
|§ 888||88||Contempt toward officials|
|§ 889||89||Disrespect toward superior commissioned officer|
|§ 890||90||Assaulting or willfully disobeying superior commissioned officer|
|§ 891||91||Insubordinate conduct toward warrant officer, noncommissioned officer, or petty officer|
|§ 892||92||Failure to obey order or regulation|
|§ 893||93||Cruelty and maltreatment|
|§ 894||94||Mutiny or sedition|
|§ 895||95||Resistance, flight, breach of arrest, and escape|
|§ 896||96||Releasing prisoner without proper authority|
|§ 897||97||Unlawful detention|
|§ 898||98||Noncompliance with procedural rules|
|§ 899||99||Misbehavior before the enemy|
|§ 900||100||Subordinate compelling surrender|
|§ 901||101||Improper use of countersign|
|§ 902||102||Forcing a safeguard|
|§ 903||103||Captured or abandoned property|
|§ 904||104||Aiding the enemy|
|§ 905||105||Misconduct as prisoner|
|§ 907||107||False official statements|
|§ 908||108||Military property of United States – Loss, damage, destruction, or wrongful disposition|
|§ 909||109||Property other than military property of United States – waste, spoilage, or destruction|
|§ 910||110||Improper hazarding of vessel|
|§ 911||111||Drunken or reckless operation of a vehicle, aircraft, or vessel|
|§ 912||112||Drunk on duty|
|§ 912a||112a||Wrongful use, possession, etc., of controlled substances|
|§ 913||113||Misbehavior of sentinel|
|§ 916||116||Riot or breach of peace|
|§ 917||117||Provoking speeches or gestures|
|§ 919a||119a||Death or injury of an unborn child|
|§ 920||120||Rape and carnal knowledge|
|§ 921||121||Larceny and wrongful appropriation|
|§ 923a||123a||Making, drawing, or uttering check, draft, or order without sufficient funds|
|§ 932||132||Frauds against the United States|
|§ 933||133||Conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman|
|§ 934||134||General article|
General article (Article 134)
The general article (Article 134) authorizes the prosecution of offenses not specifically detailed by any other article: all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty. Clause 1 of the article involves disorders and neglect "to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces." Clause 2 involves "conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces." Clause 3 deals with non-capital offenses violating other federal law; under this clause, any such offense created by federal statute may be prosecuted under Article 134. United States v. Perkins, 47 C.M.R. 259 (Air Force Ct. of Military Review 1973). The most recent version of the Manual for Courts-Martial lists the following offenses commonly prosecuted under Article 134: Abusing public animal; adultery; assault with intent to commit murder, voluntary manslaughter, rape, robbery, sodomy, arson, burglary, or housebreaking; bigamy; bribery or graft; burning with intent to defraud; check, worthless, making and uttering; by dishonorably failing to maintain funds; child endangerment; cohabitation, wrongful; correctional custody – offenses against; debt, dishonorably failing to pay; disloyal statements; disorderly conduct, drunkenness; drinking liquor with prisoner; drunk prisoner; drunkenness – incapacitation for performance of duties through prior wrongful indulgence in intoxicating liquor or any drug; false or unauthorized pass offenses; false pretenses, obtaining services under; false swearing; firearm, discharging – through negligence; firearm, discharging – willfully, under such circumstances as to endanger human life; fleeing scene of accident; fraternization; gambling with subordinate; homicide, negligent; impersonating a commissioned, warrant, noncommissioned, or petty officer, or an agent or official; indecent language; jumping from vessel into the water; kidnapping; mail: taking, opening, secreting, destroying, or stealing; mails: depositing or causing to be deposited obscene matters in; misprision of serious offense; obstructing justice; wrongful interference with an adverse administrative proceeding; pandering and prostitution; parole, violation of; perjury: subornation of; public record: altering, concealing, removing, mutilating, obliterating, or destroying; quarantine: medical, breaking; reckless endangerment; restriction, breaking; seizure: destruction, removal, or disposal of property to prevent; self-injury without intent to avoid service; sentinel or lookout: offenses against or by; soliciting another to commit an offense; stolen property: knowingly receiving, buying, concealing; straggling; testify: wrongful refusal; threat or hoax designed or intended to cause panic or public fear; threat, communicating; unlawful entry; weapon: concealed, carrying; wearing unauthorized insignia, decoration, badge, ribbon, device, or lapel button.
- Judge Advocate General's Corps
- Manual for Courts-Martial
- Military law
- Military tribunal
- Military courtesy
- Military expression
- Laws of war
- Geneva Conventions
- Supreme Court Appellate Jurisdiction Over Military Court Cases by Anna C. Henning, Congressional Research Service, October 6, 2008
- Appellate Review, CAAF website (retrieved on October 13, 2008)
- U.S. Const., Art. I, Sec. 8
- 10 U.S.C. § 801 Art. 1: Definitions.
- James R. Silkenat and Mark R. Shulman. The Imperial Presidency and the Consequences of 9/11: Lawyers React to the Global War on Terrorism (2007). Greenwood Publishing Group: p. 193.
- Manual for Courts-Martial (2008 ed.). IV-111 to IV-145.
- Uniform Code of Military Justice
- Manual for Courts-Martial United States (2008 Edition) Caution: 5.54 MB PDF document.
- The original version of the MCM from the Library of Congress Caution: 5.53 MB PDF document.
- The short film Big Picture: Military Justice is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]
- The short film 50 Years of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) (July 13, 2001) is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]
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