Oddball Laws Found Only in the Military

On behalf of Law Offices of David P. Sheldon on Tuesday, July 19, 2016.

If you're in the military, your behavior falls under the rules of the Uniform Code of Military Justice or UCMJ. You might be surprised by some of the things that can land a servicemember in confinement and lead to a negative discharge. It might be hard to believe that these laws still exist today, and that the possible penalties are severe.

Only in the military

Here are six less common offenses that military personnel face that you won't find in a civilian law code:

Straggling: Don't straggle, or you might find yourself confined for up to three months, and losing two-thirds of your pay for that same time period. Not sure if you're a straggler? If you're lagging during a run or falling behind during a march, you're a straggler. If you become separated from your peers, or wander away from the group, you could be in trouble.

Jumping off a ship: This could be considered an extreme form of straggling, but it's listed as a separate offense. If you stumble over the side by accident, that's one thing, but deliberately throwing yourself overboard is punishable by discharge for bad conduct and loss of all pay and allowances, plus confinement for six months.

Watch your mouth, too. Don't get caught cursing or telling dirty jokes, since profanity is another violation of the military code. While it might be common in civilian life, and society in general is tolerant of foul language, the military is not necessarily the same. The definition includes words that inspire lustful thoughts or are filthy, vulgar or of a disgusting nature. This law might not be strictly enforced, but when it is, the penalties can be steep. Also the audience matters. If it's a child under 16, the result can be dishonorable discharge, loss of pay and confinement for two years. For other situation involving adults, the result could be a bad conduct discharge, loss of income and a six months in confinement.

Drinking: Under the UCMJ, drinking can get you in trouble. If you intend to drink, choose your drinking friends carefully. Drinking with the wrong person could result in loss of two-thirds pay and confinement for up to three months.

Adultery: Friendship has its limits in the military, too. Adultery is grounds for dismissal if it can be proven, which is often difficult. However, if shown, the maximum penalty could be dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of pay and allowances, and confinement for a year.

Dueling: This is against the law for civilians, too, but the military has a tradition. This one is a head-scratcher since the activity fell out of favor after the Civil War, but the military has kept it on the books. Settle your disagreements by arm wrestling or rock, paper, scissors. Just not a duel. No matter what the gripe, challenging someone to a duel is against the law. You don't have to participate to pay the price, since anyone who is considering a duel, promoting one or even has knowledge of a possible duel and fails to report it can be punished with a loss of pay, confinement of up to a year and dishonorable discharge.

Hire the right military criminal defense lawyer

While it is unlikely that you will face any of the above charges during your time in military service, there are many other rules that can place your freedom, your reputation or your career in jeopardy. If you are facing any kind of disciplinary action or have been charged with an offense under the UCMJ, make sure you have an attorney who understands the rules and procedures to make sure you get the strongest defense possible. Call attorney David P. Sheldon in Washington, D.C. We represent military personnel serving worldwide.