The UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) is a federal law enacted by Congress. It serves as the foundation of military law in the United States. Article 1, section 8 of the US Constitution states that Congress shall have the power to make rules and regulations regarding the land and naval forces, thus we have the UCMJ.
The Law requires the President to implement the provisions of the UCMJ as Commander-in-Chief. The President does this through an executive order called the “Manual for Court Martial”, or the MCM.
One of the most frequently acknowledged articles of the UCMJ articles is Article 15. Under this article, commanders have the right to exercise non-judicial punishment. This is common in situations where a member commits minor breaches of discipline. The soldier has the option to accept the Article 15 or turn it down and demand trial by court-martial. An Article 15 hearing is comparable to a misdemeanor court, and a trial by court-martial is more comparable to a felony court. Article 15s can, however, affect a soldier’s future. A commander can choose where to file the Article 15, and if filed in the soldier’s official records, it may affect promotions, clearances, and special assignments.
UCMJ Articles 77-134 are called the “punitive articles”. These articles lay out specific offenses which can result in punishment by court-martial. Some of these offenses include stealing property, unlawful entry, wearing unauthorized insignia, disorderly conduct, etc. Chapter 4 of the MCM expands on the punitive articles.
The many offenses listed in the punitive articles can seem overwhelming at first glance. Thus, the MCM separates the punitive articles into these six parts: the text, elements of the offense, an explanation, lesser included offenses, maximum permissible punishments, and sample specifications. This section is written in a way that makes the offenses and penalties simple to understand.
Article 31 of the UCMJ defines rights belonging to anyone who has been accused. These include the right to remain silent, the right to be told what you are being accused of, and the right to know that any statements you make will be used against you. The Constitution provides the right to an attorney though it is not specified in Article 31.
If you find yourself faced with an Article 15 or another accusation in relation to the UCMJ articles, contact an attorney who is specifically equipped to defend soldiers. Military Trial Defenders is well-versed in all aspects of military law and we’re prepared to assist you however you may need. We bring a team approach to the military justice system and are experienced in military litigation. Contact our attorneys today.