The military is structured in such a way that those with higher ranks are provided with certain privileges. One of these is respect from subordinates. As a servicemember earns a higher rank, they are proving their ability in both knowledge and leadership. Article 89 provides protection for commissioned officers, noncommissioned officers, and warrant officers to issue commands necessary for the execution of their duty.
Article 89 includes both verbal and physical disrespect. Any of these could also be considered a level of assault.
“He stuck by me throughout the entire length of the investigation and trial reassuring me and my family that everything will work out. My family and I will never forget the personal sacrifices he made to ensure the truth was exposed.” – J.E. former client
There are, however, many factors to consider for Article 89 violations.
The first issue that arises in Article 89 litigation is the relationship between the accused and the superior to whom the words, omissions, or other disrespectful acts were directed. Because superior officers in the military can exhibit leadership in varying contexts, the article splits the definition into two parts.
Both of these include not just superior commissioned officers but often warrant officers as well.
It is important to note that a victim is not automatically considered a superior commissioned officer just because they are higher in grade.
While there are varying forms of disrespect for civilians, the military is definitive on what that term means. The purpose of each UCMJ article is to provide servicemembers with the foundation to maintain proper morale, good order, and discipline. Disrespect runs counter to these foundations, which is why the military views disrespect as so problematic. Disrespect is defined as any behavior that “undermines the respect of authority of a commissioned officer superior to the accused.” Examples of this include:
Assault under Article 89 is considered any offense that consists of “striking or assaulting a commissioned officer.” By definition, “striking” is considered intentional contact that is offensive in nature, regardless of the type of contact that occurred. Assault also includes the act of lifting or drawing a weapon towards a superior officer that is deemed threatening. This violation occurs regardless of the type of weapon. If the weapon is a firearm, this applies regardless of whether it is loaded or not.
Unlike civilian assault, in which there must be only a belief that violence will happen, military assault has to involve more than the threat. There must be an attempt to inflict harm.
Punishments can vary for violations. However, they can be very severe depending on the type of infraction and the circumstances under which it was committed. Punishments include:
Defending violations of Article 89 may seem difficult, but it is not impossible. One of the most common defenses is divestiture. This implies that the superior officer first engaged in misconduct that was significantly outside of military standards of conduct. The defense must demonstrate that the superior officer was at fault for the incident. They must also show that the accused was forced to respond in the manner of which they are accused.
Other defenses include establishing the relationship between the victim and the accused as well as their knowledge of the rank the superior held at the time of the incident. Common circumstances include situations in which the accused was under the influence of alcohol, which can show a lack of mental clarity at the time of the incident.
If you are accused of an Article 89 violation, you should have the help you deserve. With almost 20 years as a commissioned JAG, the team at Aaron Meyer Law has the knowledge, experience, and resources to ensure that you receive the best defense possible. Our team can look through your case and evaluate the evidence against you. We can then customize our defense strategy to meet your unique needs. We know your career is on the line. We know that not every case is black and white. Contact our offices today and let us get you the help you deserve.
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