Who Is Subject to the Provisions of the UMCJ?

The Uniform Military Code of Justice Reaches Nearly All Members of the Military

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Articles 77 through 134 of the Uniform Military Code of Justice (UCMJ) are known as the "punitive articles." That is to say that these articles cover specific offenses which, if violated, can result in punishment by court-martial. But who is actually subject to the provisions of these UCMJ articles?  

Article 2 of the UCMJ: Persons Subject to This Chapter

Article 2 of the Uniform Military Code of Justice (UMCJ) states that just about everyone is subject to the provisions of the code.

The code specifically states who is and who is not subject to the code, which includes outlining when a member of the armed forces becomes subject to the code's provisions as well as how exterior factors like time of war influence who is subject. Article 2 reads:

Subsection (a). The following persons are subject to this chapter:

(1) Members of a regular component of the armed forces, including those awaiting discharge after expiration of their terms of enlistment; volunteers from the time of their muster or acceptance into the armed forces; inductees from the time of their actual induction into the armed forces; and other persons lawfully called or ordered into, or to duty in or for training in, the armed forces, from the dates when they are required by the terms of the call or order to obey it.

(2) Cadets, aviation cadets, and midshipmen.

(3) Members of a reserve component while on inactive-duty training, but in the case of members of the Army National Guard of the United States or the Air National Guard of the United States only when in Federal service.

(4) Retired members of a regular component of the armed forces who are entitled to pay.

(5) Retired members of a reserve component who are receiving hospitalization from an armed force.

(6) Members of the Fleet Reserve and Fleet Marine Corps Reserve.

(7) Persons in custody of the armed forces serving a sentence imposed by a court-martial.

(8) Members of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Ad-ministration, Public Health Service, and other organizations, when assigned to and serving with the armed forces.

(9) Prisoners of war in custody of the armed forces.

(10) In time of war, persons serving with or accompanying an armed force in the field.

(11) Subject to any treaty or agreement to which the United States is or may be a party or to any accepted rule of international law, persons serving with, employed by, or accompanying the armed forces outside the United States and outside the Common-wealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands.

(12) Subject to any treaty or agreement to which the United States is or may be a party or to any accepted rule of international law, persons within an area leased by or otherwise reserved or acquired for the use of the United States which is under the control of the Secretary concerned and which is outside the United States and outside the Canal Zone, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands.

    Subsection (b). The voluntary enlistment of any person who has the capacity to understand the significance of enlisting in the armed forces shall be valid for purposes of jurisdiction under subsection (a) and a change of status from civilian to member of the armed forces shall be effective upon the taking of the oath of enlistment.

    Subsection (c). Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a person serving with an armed force who—

    (1) submitted voluntarily to military authority;

    (2) met the mental competence and minimum age qualifications of sections 504 and 505 of this title at the time of voluntary submission to military authority;

    (3) received military pay or allowances; and

    (4) performed military duties;

      Subsection (d).

      (1) A member of a reserve component who is not on active duty and who is made the subject of proceedings under section 81 (article 15) or section 830 (article 30) with respect to an offense against this chapter may be ordered to active duty involuntarily for the purpose of:

      • (A) investigation under section 832 of this title (article 32);
      • (B) trial by court-martial; or
      • (C) nonjudicial punishment under section 815 of this title (article 15).​

      (2) A member of a reserve component may not be ordered to active duty under paragraph (1) except with respect to an offense committed while the member was:

      • (A) on active duty; or
      • (B) on inactive-duty training, but in the case of members of the Army National Guard of the United States or the Air National Guard of the United States only when in Federal service.​​

      (3) Authority to order a member to active duty under paragraph (1) shall be exercised under regulations prescribed by the President.

      (4) A member may be ordered to active duty under paragraph (1) only by a person empowered to convene general courts-martial in a regular component of the armed forces.

      (5) A member ordered to active duty under paragraph (1), unless the order to active duty was approved by the Secretary concerned, may not:

      • (A) be sentenced to confinement; or
      • (B) be required to serve a punishment consisting of any restriction on liberty during a period other than a period of inactive-duty training or active duty (other than active duty ordered under paragraph (l)).

      Subsection (e). The provisions of this section are subject to section 876(d)(2) of this title (article 76b(d)(2).

      Article 3 of the UCMJ: Jurisdiction to Try Certain Personnel

      In addition to outlining who is subject to the Uniform Military Code of Justice and when Article 3 of the UMCJ also specifies the jurisdiction to try certain members of the military. Article 3 reads:

      Subsection (a). Subject to section 843 of this title (article 43), a person who is in a status in which the person is subject to this chapter and who committed an offense against this chapter while formerly in a status in which the person was subject to this chapter is not relieved from amenability to the jurisdiction of this chapter for that offense by reason of a termination of that person’s former status.

      Subsection (b). Each person discharged from the armed forces who is later charged with having fraudulently obtained his discharge is, subject to section 843 of this title (article 43), subject to trial by court-martial on that charge and is after apprehension subject to this chapter while in the custody of the armed forces for that trial.

      Upon conviction of that charge, he is subject to trial by court-martial for all offenses under this chapter committed before the fraudulent discharge.

      Subsection (c). No person who has deserted from the armed forces may be relieved from amenability to the jurisdiction of this chapter by virtue of a separation from any later period of service.

      Subsection (d). A member of a reserve component who is subject to this chapter is not, by virtue of the termination of a period of active duty or inactive-duty training, relieved from amenability to the jurisdiction of this chapter for an offense against this chapter committed during such period of active duty or inactive-duty training.