Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)

Articles Governing Military Law

Noon formation outside Bancroft Hall at US Naval Academy.
Richard I'Anson/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is a federal law enacted by Congress that governs the military justice system. Its provisions are contained in United States Code, Title 10, Chapter 47.

Article 36 of the UCMJ allows the President to prescribe rules and procedures to implement the provisions of the UCMJ. The President does this via the Manual for Courts-Martial (MCM) which is an executive order that contains detailed instructions for implementing military law for the United States Armed Forces.

The UCMJ varies in significant ways from the civilian justice system of the United States. The full code is available to consult online in detail.

Here is an index of its chapters, with links or explanations and in-depth exploration of the most popular queries about the UCMJ.

Sub Chapter 1. General Provisions

  • Article 1. Definitions
  • Article 2. Persons Subject to this chapter.
  • Article 3. Jurisdiction to try certain personnel.
  • Article 4. Dismissed officer's right to trial by court-martial.
  • Article 5. Territorial applicability of this chapter.
  • Article 6. Judge advocates and legal officers.
  • Article 6a. Investigation and disposition of matters pertaining to the fitness of military judges.

Sub Chapter II. Apprehension and Restraint

  • Article 7. Apprehension.

Article 7: Apprehension

Apprehension is defined as the taking of a person into custody. Authorized personnel can apprehend persons if they have a reasonable belief that an offense has been committed by the person they are apprehending.

This article also allows commissioned officers, warrant officers, petty officers, and noncommissioned officers to quell quarrels, frays and disorders.

  • Article 8. Apprehension of deserters.
  • Article 9. Imposition of Restraint.
  • Article 10. Restraint of persons charged with offenses.
  • Article 11. Reports and receiving of prisoners.
  • Article 12. Confinement with enemy prisoners prohibited.

Article 13: Punishment Prohibited Before Trial

This short article protects military personnel from punishment before a trial, other than arrest or confinement. "No person, while being held for trial, may be subjected to punishment or penalty other than arrest or confinement upon the charges pending against him, nor shall the arrest or confinement imposed upon him be any more rigorous than the circumstances required to insure his presence, but he may be subjected to minor punishment during that period for infractions of discipline."

  • Article 14. Delivery of offenders to civil authorities.

Sub Chapter III. Non-Judicial Punishment

Article 15: Commanding Officer's Non-Judicial Punishment

This article regulates what a commanding officer may do to hear of offenses committed by those under his or her command and impose a punishment. The proceedings are called captain's mast or simply mast in the Navy and Coast Guard, office hours in the Marine Corps, and Article 15 in the Army and Air Force.

More: Article 15

Sub Chapter IV. Court-Martial Jurisdiction

  • Article 16. Courts-Martial classified.
  • Article 17. Jurisdiction of courts-martial in general.
  • Article 18. Jurisdiction of general courts-martial.
  • Article 19. Jurisdiction of special courts-martial.
  • Article 20. Jurisdiction of summary courts-martial.
  • Article 21. Jurisdiction of courts-martial not exclusive.

Sub Chapter V. Composition Of Courts-Martial

  • Article 22. Who may convene general courts-martial.
  • Article 23. Who may convene special courts-martial.
  • Article 24. Who may convene summary courts-martial.
  • Article 25. Who may serve on courts-martial.
  • Article 26. Military judge of a general or special court-martial.
  • Article 27. Detail of trial counsel and defense counsel.
  • Article 28. Detail or employment of reporters and interpreters.
  • Article 29. Absent and additional members.

Sub Chapter VI. Pre-Trial Procedure

  • Article 30. Charges and specifications.

Article 31: Compulsory Self-Incrimination Prohibited

This article provides protection for military personnel against being required to provide self-incriminating evidence, statements or testimony. Personnel must be informed of the nature of the accusation and advised of their rights before interrogation, similar to civilian Miranda rights. They can't be compelled to make a statement that could be degrading if it is not material to the case. Any statements or evidence obtained in violation of Article 31 cannot be received into evidence against the person in a trial by court-martial.

Article 32: Investigation

This article spells out the purpose, limits and manner of investigations leading to charges and referrals to trial by court-martial. An investigation must be done to determine whether charges are truthful and to recommend what charges should be brought. The accused must be informed of the charges and the right to be represented during theĀ investigation. The accused can cross-examine witnesses and request his own witnesses for examination. The accused has the right to see the statement of the substance of the testimony from both sides if it is forwarded. If the investigation was conducted before charges were brought, the accused has the right to demand further investigation and can recall witnesses for cross-examination and bring new evidence.

  • Article 33. Forwarding of charges.
  • Article 34. Advice of staff judge advocate and reference for trial.
  • Article 35. Service of charges.

Sub Chapter VII. Trial Procedure

  • Article 36. President may prescribe rules.
  • Article 37. Unlawful influencing the action of the court.
  • Article 38. Duties of trial counsel and defense counsel.

Article 39: Sessions

This article allows for the military judge to call the court into sessions without the presence of members for specific purposes. These include hearing and determining motions, defenses and objections, holding arraignment and receiving pleas, and other procedural functions. The proceedings are part of the record and attended by the accused, defense counsel and trial counsel. Further, during deliberations and voting, only the members may be present. All other proceedings must be conducted in the presence of the accused, defense counsel, trial counsel and the military judge.

  • Article 40. Continuances.
  • Article 41. Challenges.
  • Article 42. Oaths.

Article 43: Statute of Limitations

This article sets out the statute of limitations for various levels of offense. There is no time limitation for any offense punishable by death, including absence without leave or missing movement in time of war. A general rule is a limit of five years from when the offense was committed until charges are brought. The limit for offenses under section 815 (Article 15) is two years before the imposition of punishment. Time spent fleeing from justice or eluding the authority of the United States is excluded from the limitation period. Time periods are adjusted for times of war. More: Military Statute of Limitations

  • Article 44. Former jeopardy.
  • Article 45. Pleas of the accused.
  • Article 46. Opportunity to obtain witnesses and other evidence.
  • Article 47. Refusal to appear or testify.
  • Article 48. Contempts.
  • Article 49. Depositions.
  • Article 50. Admissibility of records of courts of inquiry.
  • Article 50a. Defense lack of mental responsibility.
  • Article 51. Voting and rulings.
  • Article 52. Number of votes required.
  • Article 53. Court to announce action.
  • Article 54. Record of trial.

Sub Chapter VIII. Sentences

  • Article 55. Cruel and unusual punishments prohibited.
  • Article 56. Maximum limits.
  • Article 57. Effective date of sentences.
  • Article 58. Execution of confinement.
  • Article 58a. Sentences: reduction in enlisted grade upon approval.

Sub Chapter IX. Post-Trial Procedure And Review Of Courts-Martial

  • Article 59. Error of law; lesser included offense.
  • Article 60. Action by the convening authority.
  • Article 61. Waiver or withdrawal of appeal.
  • Article 62. Appeal by the United States.
  • Article 63. Rehearings.
  • Article 64. Review by a judge advocate.
  • Article 65. Disposition of records.
  • Article 66. Review by Court of Military Review.
  • Article 67. Review by the Court of Military Appeals.
  • Article 67a. Review by the Supreme Court.
  • Article 68. Branch offices.
  • Article 69. Review in the office of the Judge Advocate General.
  • Article 70. Appellate counsel.
  • Article 71. Execution of sentence; suspension of sentence.
  • Article 72. Vacation of suspension.
  • Article 73. Petition for a new trial.
  • Article 74. Remission and suspension.
  • Article 75. Restoration.
  • Article 76. Finality of proceedings, findings, and sentences.
  • Article 76a. Leave required to be taken pending review of certain court-martial convictions.

Sub Chapter X. Punitive Articles

  • Article 77. Principals.
  • Article 78. Accessory after the fact.
  • Article 79. Conviction of lesser included offense.
  • Article 80. Attempts.
  • Article 81. Conspiracy.
  • Article 82. Solicitation.
  • Article 83. Fraudulent enlistment, appointment, or separation.
  • Article 84. Unlawful enlistment, appointment, or separation.

Article 85: Desertion

This article outlines the serious offense of desertion, which is punishable death if it is committed in time of war. More: Article 85 - Desertion

  • Article 86. Absence without leave.

Article 87: Missing Movement

This article reads, "Any person subject to this chapter who through neglect or design misses the movement of a ship, aircraft, or unit with which he is required in the course of duty to move shall be punished as a court-martial may direct."

Article 91: Insubordinate Conduct Toward Warrant Officer, Noncommissioned Officer, or Petty Officer

This article allows court-martial for any warrant officer or enlisted member who assaults, willfully disobeys a lawful order from, or treats with contempt verbally or in deportment a warrant officer, petty officer or non-commissioned officer while the officer is in execution of his office. More: Article 91: Insubordinate Conduct

Article 92: Failure to Obey Order or Regulation

This article allows court-martial for violating or failing to obey any lawful general order or regulation or any other lawful order issued by any member of the armed forces he had a duty to obey. It also allows court-martial for being derelict in performance of duties. More: Article 92: Failure to Obey Order or Regulation

  • Article 93. Cruelty and maltreatment.
  • Article 94. Mutiny or sedition.
  • Article 95. Resistance, breach of arrest, and escape.
  • Article 96. Releasing prisoner without proper authority.
  • Article 97. Unlawful detention.
  • Article 98. Noncompliance with procedural rules.
  • Article 99. Misbehavior before the enemy.
  • Article 100. Subordinate compelling surrender.
  • Article 101. Improper use of countersign.
  • Article 102. Forcing a safeguard.
  • Article 103. Capture or abandoned property.
  • Article 104. Aiding the enemy.
  • Article 105. Misconduct as prisoner.
  • Article 106. Spies.
  • Article 106a. Espionage

Article 107: False Statements

This short article prohibits making false official statements. It reads, "Any person subject to this chapter who, with intent to deceive, signs any false record, return, regulation, order, or other official document, knowing it to be false, or makes any other false official statement knowing it to be false, shall be punished as a court-martial may direct."

Article 128: Assault

This article defines assault as the attempt or offer with "unlawful force or violence to do bodily harm to another person, whether or not the attempt or offer is consummated." It defines aggravated assault as assault committed with a dangerous weapon or other means or force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm, or intentionally inflicting grievous bodily harm with or without a weapon. More: Article 128: Assault

Article 134: General Article

This article of the Uniform Code of Military Justice is a catch-all for offenses that are not spelled out elsewhere. It covers all conduct that could bring discredit upon the armed forces that are not capital offenses. It allows them to be brought to court-martial. The details of the offenses covered are spelled out in the Punitive Articles of the UCMJ. These range from assault to drunkenness, negligent homicide, straggling, kidnapping, adultery and abusing a public animal. It is sometimes called the Devil's Article.

Sub Chapter XI. Miscellaneous Provisions

Article 136: Authority to Administer Oaths and Act as Notary

This article establishes the authority to act as a notary to administer oaths. I gives the ranks and positions of those on active duty and inactive-duty training who can perform these functions. Those who have the general powers of a notary public include judge advocates, legal officers, summary courts-martial, adjutants, commanding officers of the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. They cannot be paid a fee for notarial acts and no seal is required, only signature and title. Oaths may be administered by presidents and counsels of courts-martial and courts of inquiry, as well as officers taking a deposition, persons detailed to conduct an investigation, and recruiting officers.

Article 137: Articles to be Explained

Enlisted members shall have the articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice explained to them when they enter active duty or the reserve and explained again after six months of active duty, when a reserve has completed basic training, or when they reenlist. The sections and articles covered are sections 802, 803, 807-815, 825, 827, 831, 837, 838, 855, 877-934, and 937-939 (articles 2, 3, 7-15, 25, 27, 31, 38, 55, 77-134, and 137-139). The text of the UCMJ must be made available to them.

Sub Chapter XII. Court Of Military Appeals

  • Article 141. Status.
  • Article 142. Judges.
  • Article 143. Organization and employees.
  • Article 144. Procedure.
  • Article 145. Annuities for judges and survivors.
  • Article 146. Code committee.

Continue Reading...