UCMJ Article 134
Fraternization in the military is addressed under Article 134 of the UCMJ, also known as the “General Article,” which is a list of prohibited conduct that is of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces or is prejudicial to good order and discipline. While the vast majority of working relationships and friendly association between officers and enlisted persons is appropriate in the military, this offense occurs when a commissioned or warrant officer associates with enlisted members on equal terms disregarding his or her own rank to the point that is of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces or is prejudicial to good order and discipline.
While not specifically defined in the Article 134, each respective service has regulations defining what is considered fraternization. For example, all services prohibit officers from dating or becoming business partners with enlisted members. Although fraternization is often difficult to prove, commanders at the lowest appropriate levels are given great leeway in deciding what is considered to bring discredit upon their unit or what is prejudicial to its good order and discipline.
Maximum Possible Punishments for violations of Article 134: Fraternization
The maximum punishment according to Article 134 (Fraternization) is a Dismissal, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for two years.
Understanding Article 134 (Fraternization) of the UCMJ
The crime of fraternization under the UCMJ consists of five elements. All five of these elements must be proved by the government beyond a reasonable doubt in order to charge a service member with fraternization and include:
- That the accused was a commissioned or warrant officer;
- That the accused fraternized on terms of military equality with one or more certain enlisted member(s) in a certain manner;
- That the accused then knew the person(s) to be (an) enlisted member(s);
- That such fraternization violated the custom of the accused’s service that officers shall not fraternize with enlisted members on terms of equality; and
- That, under the circumstances, the conduct of the accused was to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces or was of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.
It is important to note that surrounding circumstances determine whether or not the contact or association between officers and enlisted persons is an offense. Some of these factors include:
- Whether the conduct has compromised the chain of command;
- Whether the conduct resulted in the appearance of partiality, or otherwise undermined good order, discipline, authority, or morale;
- The acts or circumstances must be such as to lead a reasonable person experienced in the problems of military leadership to conclude that the good order and discipline of the armed forces has been prejudiced by their tendency to compromise the respect of enlisted persons for the professionalism, integrity, and obligations of an officer.
How do you defend against Article 134 charges for fraternization?
When you are facing the combined resources of the military as well as the current cultural climate, you need to be prepared to defend your career and your freedom. Crisp and Associates, LLC has a team of experienced trial attorneys who have won these cases. This team includes the firm’s founder, Jonathan Crisp, a highly respected former Army JAG with over 17 years of experience in military law and a sought-after speaker and lecturer on military law. In 2015 the firm recruited R. Davis Younts, a former prosecutor who was the number one rated Senior Defense Counsel in the Air Force and has taught at the Army and Air Force JAG Schools and successfully achieved acquittals in multiple rape, sexual assault, and sexual contact cases in courts-martial in multiple branches of the service.
If you are someone you know is facing Article 134 charges for fraternization you need to speak with a Military defense attorney right away. Please call Crisp and Associates Military at 888-347-1514 for a free consultation.
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