What Are the Articles of UCMJ?

Serving in the military is a responsibility and an honor. As a service member, you are held to codes, laws, and procedures that a civilian will not be held accountable for. If you are facing any type of court-martial or are being accused of breaking the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), it is helpful to understand the articles of the UCMJ as they apply to you.

What Are the Articles of the UCMJ?

The UCMJ, or Uniform Code of Military Justice, is the main legal instrument of the United States military forces. This includes all uniformed branches of the military, such as the Navy, Marines, Air Force, U.S. Army, Coast Guard, and others. It has been in existence since Congress created it in 1950. The president also holds constitutional power to enforce those laws and contributes to the Manual for Courts-Martial.

How Many Articles Are There in the UCMJ?

The UCMJ is a lengthy document with over 50 pages of articles and sub-articles. The UCMJ can be updated and edited, but currently, there are over 140 separate articles organized into 12 different subchapters. The subchapters of the UCMJ include:

  1. General Provisions
  2. Apprehension and Restraint
  3. Non-Judicial Punishment
  4. Court-Martial Jurisdiction
  5. Composition of Courts-Martial
  6. Pre-trial Procedure
  7. Trial Procedure
  8. Sentences
  9. Post-Trial Procedure and Review of Courts-Martial
  10. Punitive Articles
  11. Miscellaneous Provisions
  12. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces

Punitive Articles in the UCMJ

The UCMJ contains a range of penalties for violations and crimes committed. Articles 77-134 all fall under the punitive articles sub-chapter. This adds up to over 60 punitive articles containing over 100 unique offenses that can result in punitive action. At the most extreme, punitive articles can allow for convicted individuals to serve life in prison with no option for parole, or can even mete out the death sentence.

Many of the articles listed under the punitive articles section are crimes a regular civilian would also be tried for in a court of law. These include burglary, kidnapping, forgery, assault, possession of illegal substances, drunk driving, etc. Others, however, are specific to military members, such as desertion and contempt toward officials.

Who Are the UCMJ’s Articles Applicable To?

The UCMJ serves as the canon for military law. As seen in the UCMJ’s subchapter list above, the UCMJ extensively covers everything from the entire trial process to sentencing in military courts. The UCMJ also lays out who is subject to its laws, generally being military service members, but also potentially extending to civilians in times of martial law, to those working on military bases, etc.

For certain types of crimes, an individual may be tried in both civilian court and military court. For example, the UCMJ’s Article 122 outlines the offense of robbery. It is possible for a military service member to be tried both in a state court for robbery and in a court-martial for the same crime. This means that the UCMJ covers legal issues that fall into criminal and civil court systems, as well as offenses specific to the military.

Is the Manual for Courts-Martial an Article of the UCMJ?

The Manual for Courts-Martial specifically deals with the procedures for the three different types of courts-martial. The MCM was created by an executive order, which specifically was permitted in Article 36 of the UCMJ. So, essentially this means the UCMJ gave the president the power to create the Manual for Courts-Martial. While the MCM is not embedded in the UCMJ document, it is still a direct result of the UCMJ’s existence.

Military Rules of Evidence (MRE) are part of the Manual for Courts-Martial, and therefore are also not directly a part of the UCMJ. They are, however, inextricably linked to the UCMJ, as they help define how a court-martial will proceed and the evidence that can be accepted.


Q: What Is Article 15 in the UCMJ?

A: Article 15 of the UCMJ is used for non-judicial punishment within the military. This article allows less serious offenses to still have penalties but does not require a court-martial of any type. Offenses that may fall under this article may include underage drinking, treating officers with disrespect, falling asleep while on duty, etc. While an Article 15 punishment is still undesirable on your military record, it is less severe than judicial punishment.

Q: What Is Article 86 in the UCMJ?

A: This article deals with absence without leave, sometimes referred to as AWOL. Essentially, it states that a service member’s failure to go to an appointed location when required, choice to leave the appointed location without permission, or decision to be absent from their unit or place of duty, are all punishable by courts-martial. The reason for leaving, the length of time away from the place of duty, and other surrounding circumstances will determine the consequences.

Q: What Is Article 137 of the UCMJ?

A: Article 137 mandates that members of military service have specific portions of the UCMJ explained to them so that they are fully aware of those codes and procedures they are being held to. The article details at what point in military service the UCMJ articles must have been explained to enlisted members and officers. The article specifically says that certain sections must “be carefully explained.” Article 137 also mandates the UCMJ be accessible online.

Q: What Is Article 92 of the UCMJ?

A: Article 92 deals with the “failure to obey order or regulation.” The article is broken down into three types of violations.

  • Disobeying or breaking a lawful rule or general order
  • Failing to obey an order, which falls under their responsibility to obey and which they knew was given by another member of the military
  • Being derelict in their duties and the performance thereof

Aaron Meyer Law – Criminal & Military Defense Attorney

If you are being tried in a court-martial or are being held legally accountable to the UCMJ, it can feel very overwhelming to navigate the extensive articles within the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Working with a qualified attorney can help you feel confident and assured when going into your legal case. If you need legal representation, Aaron Meyer Law can fight for you. Reach out to our team today.

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