The Uniform Code of Military Justice has a few new changes this year- and the large number of those changes are predominantly focused on relationships, sexual acts and abuse of power.
New rules went into effect on January 1st, with offenses committing prior to 2019 still falling under the previous system, according to the Military Justice Act of 2016.
However, if an individual is arrested after January 1, 2019, on charges that allegedly took place after and prior to the new year, new charges would be applied on a case-by-case basis in accordance to when the individual crimes took place.
Some of the new rules are simple re-definitions of prior regulations. For example, adultery is now defined as extramarital sexual contact, and it includes genital, oral and anal acts, as opposed to the older definition, which only touched upon any variety of sex that could result in offspring.
Furthermore, the old guidelines could land a servicemember in trouble if they slept with someone other than their spouse, even if they were legally separated. Under the new revisions, however, this has been relaxed.
On the topic of domestic violence, the laws have been expanded to include intimate partners.
“It’s actually pretty broad, and it’s meant to bring us into the 21st century, where it doesn’t just have to be that you’re married, for example,” Army Office of the Judge Advocate General Colonel Sara Root told the Air Force Times.
The regulations now include former spouses, someone the servicemember is dating, a live-in partner or someone the individual has had children with. The law is not clear on how long an individual has to be with another in order to be considered an “intimate partner.”
On the electronic front, cyber-stalking has been added to Article 130, and Article 123 touches upon the unauthorized use of government computers, ranging from uploading a virus to obtaining classified information.
Article 93a is a touch-up on the Article 92 offense of failure to obey a regulation, albeit a new stand-alone regulation that prohibits activities with a military recruit or trainee by a person in position of trust. Likely a response to recent cases of recruiters sleeping with recruiting prospects and instructors engaging in acts with a trainee, violation of 93a carries a sentence up to half a decade behind bars.
The Military Justice Act of 2016 has also required the military services to move a handful of offenses out of the wide reach of Article 134, which is also referred to as a general article. A sort of “catch-all” for military offenses, Article 134 is often seen as a way to hit a person with as many general offenses as possible, in hopes that the overburdened defense will take a plea deal or be unable to dodge all charges set forth.
Several offenses have been shifted away from Article 134, including child endangerment, assault with intent to commit specific offenses, burning property with intent to defraud, drinking liquor with a prisoner, willfully discharging a firearm to endanger a human life, impersonation (officer, warrant officer, NCO, agent or official), kidnapping, obstructing justice, wearing unauthorized uniform items, breaking medical quarantine and communicating threats, as well as other crimes.
In addition to changes in the law, the UCMJ trial system has also been expanded, with the new ability to issue subpoenas and produce evidence.
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