The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is a federal law passed by Congress that oversees the military justice system and record criminal misbehavior under military law.

The code requires the president, according to Article 36, to lay down rules and regulations to execute the requirements of the military justice code.

These rules and procedures are passed down through the Manual for Courts-Martial (MCM), an executive order that details the execution of military law for the branches of the military.

The UCMJ carries from civilian law, and it encompasses several aspects of military life. Its sections cover various provisions that define and dictate the conduct of a service member.

Fig 1: Analysis of the punitive articles of the UCMJ. Source: Slideserve


The punitive articles of the UCMJ are those articles detailing offenses, which can lead to punishments when they are violated. Some of them are serious enough to earn you a court-martial, but other offenses can result in a non-judicial hearing. These articles also help you to maintain a clean record during your time as a service member.

Article 77 – Principles: This article criminalizes aiding and abetting a crime directly and indirectly.

Article 78 – Accessory after the fact: Defines aiding or supporting a criminal as unlawful.

Article 79 – Conviction of lesser included offenses: Defines the procedures of handling lesser offenses in military courts.

Article 80 – Attempts: This article differentiates between successful and attempted crimes.

Article 81 – Conspiracy: Criminalizes any collaboration to commit offenses listed under the UCMJ.

Article 82 – Solicitation: Defines solicitation to commit an offense as a crime.

Article 82(a) – Soliciting another to commit another crime: Defines any act by a service member to ask another member to commit a crime or ask for advice in committing a crime.

Article 83 – Malingering: Criminalizes any shirking or avoidance of duty through a faked illness or self-harm.

Article 84 – Quarantine: Medical, Breaking: Deserting medical quarantine without a discharge order is punishable.

Article 85 – Desertion: Knowingly leaving your post is punishable by law

Article 86 – Absence without leave (AWOL): Failing to report for duty at the right time is punishable by law.

Article 87 – Missing movement: Missing an assigned duty at the designated time is punishable by law.

Article 87(a) – Resistance, Flight, Breach of Arrest, and Escape: This article defines escaping from custody or detention as an offense.

Article 87(b) – Correctional custody-offenses against: This article defines acts relating to escaping correctional custody

Article 87(c) – Jumping from Vessel into the Water: This article defines any acts involving a service member jumping from a military vessel into a body of water.

Article 87(d) – Restriction, Breaking: Any act that breaches a restriction that a commanding officer puts on a service member.

Article 88 – Contempt toward officials: This article defines any scornful statements made by a service member to a government officer as a crime.

Article 89 – Disrespect toward a Superior Commissioned Officer: toward a superior commissioned officer: This article sanctions punishment for a service member who shows disrespect to a superior officer.

Article 90 – Assaulting or willfully disobeying a superior commissioned officer

Article 91 – Insubordinate conduct toward warrant officer, noncommissioned officer, or petty officer: Stipulates punishment for insubordinate conduct toward a military officer.

Article 92 – Failure to obey order or regulation: Criminalizes any act of disobedience of military orders and parameters.

Article 93 – Cruelty and maltreatment: Defines and illegalizes any act of cruelty or maltreatment from a superior officer to a subordinate.

Article 94 – Mutiny and sedition: Sanctions punishment for any act of mutiny and sedition in times of war and peace.

Article 95 – Resistance, flight, breach of arrest, and escape: This article defines punishment for any service member who resists or escapes legally authorized apprehension or custody. Punishment is decided by court-martial.

Article 96 – Releasing prisoner without proper authority: Recommends punishment for service members who enable a prisoner to flee from custody through a conspiracy of negligence.

Article 97 – Unlawful detention: Prescribes punishment for any action that leads to an unlawful arrest of another person.

Article 98 – Noncompliance with procedural rules: Defines any act of delaying procedural hearings purposefully, negligence, by accident, or through negligence as a criminal act.

Article 99 – Misbehavior before the enemy: This article describes acts of weakness, rebelliousness, and recklessness before enemy forces in times of war as criminal offenses and subjects them to punishment through a court-martial.

Article 100 – Subordinate compelling surrender: Sanctions punishment for a soldier who acquires belongings or personnel through force without the approval of his CO

Article 101 – Improper use of countersign: Penalizes service members who divulge countersigns to unauthorized personnel or use unsanctioned countersigns.

Fig 2: Process of court-martial. Source: Sagepub

Article 102 – Forcing a safeguard: Sanctions punishment for actions that fail to sustain recognized protected property or individuals, and also puts said safeguards at risk.

Article 103 – Captured or abandoned property: Criminalizes the act of buying or selling property that has been abandoned or captured.

Article 104 – Aiding the enemy: Prescribes punishment for any soldier who purposefully aids enemy efforts with artillery, provisions, or intelligence.

Article 105 – Misconduct as a prisoner: Criminalizes any improper actions by a soldier captured by the enemy that puts any other captive present at risk, and also the unjust maltreatment of fellow captives.

Article 106 – Spies: Prescribes punishment for any officer who has gathered and/or shared intelligence with enemy forces.

Article 106(a) – Espionage: Defines the purposeful distribution of U.S. intelligence to external forces as a capital offense.

Article 107 – False official statements: Criminalizes the forging of any official military or government documents.

Article 107(a) – Parole, Violation Of: Defines any action by a service member that violates the terms of their parole.

Article 107(b) – False Swearing: Defines the intentional submission of false sworn statements or testimonies by a service member.

Article 108 – Military property of the United States—sale, loss, damage, destruction, or wrongful disposition

Article 109 – Property other than military property of the United States—waste, spoilage, or destruction

Article 109(a) – Mail: Taking, Opening, Secreting, Destroying, or Stealing: Criminalizes the act of taking, stealing, destroying, or secreting of another individual’s mail.

Article 110 – Improper hazarding of vessel: Defines any acts that put a military vessel in danger intentionally or through neglect.

Article 111 – Drunken or reckless operation of vehicle, aircraft, or vessel: Sanctions the court-martial of any service member who irresponsibly operates a vehicle while drunk.

Article 112 – Drunk on duty: Prescribes punishment for any soldier that performs their official duties while drunk.

Article 112(a) – Wrongful use, possession, etc., of controlled substances: Criminalizes the possession, production, use, and circulation of controlled substances.

Article 112(b) – Drunkenness, Incapacitation for Performance of Duties: Defines actions that make a soldier unfit for duty due to intoxication or the aftereffects of alcoholic substances.

Article 112(c): Drunken Prisoner: Actions that involve drinking alcoholic beverages while in captivity.

Article 113 – Misbehavior of sentinel or lookout: Criminalizes acts of drunkenness, sleeping on duty, or abandoning of duty post by military sentinels.

Article 114 – Dueling: Criminalizes service members who fight, promote, connives at or has an interest in fighting a duel. It also implicates those who know about the event and do not report that.

Fig 3: Different means of exercising military justice. Source: Slideshare

Article 114(c) – Firearm, Discharging through Negligence: Defines actions involving the accidental discharging of a service member’s firearm due to negligence.

Article 114(d) – Weapon: Concealed, Carrying: Defines the concealment of an authorized deadly weapon.

Article 115 – Threat, Communicating: Defines the use of menacing language to conjure up fear into another individual.

Article 116 – Riot or breach of peace: Prescribes punishment for soldiers who sow discord and provoke riots within a community.

Article 117 – Provoking speeches or gestures: Sanctions punishment for individuals who use words or gestures that lead to altercations.

Article 118 – Murder: Defines 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-degree murder as capital offenses.

Article 119 – Manslaughter: Criminalizes any action that leads to the inadvertent killing of an individual by a service member.

Article 119(a) – Death or Injury of an Unborn Child: Criminalizes any actions that lead to the death or injury of an unborn child.

Article 119(b) – Child Endangerment: Criminalizes any acts of recklessness that cause a child or children’s lives to be put in danger.

Article 120 – Rape and general sexual assault: Defines sexual crime such as sexual abuse, rape, and assault committed by service members as criminal acts.

Article 120a – Stalking: Defines acts of causing an individual fear of death or bodily harm using verbal, implied, or written threats or threatening conduct.

Article 120(b) – Rape and sexual assault of a child: Prescribes punishment for any soldier who has raped or sexually assaulted a child.

Article 120(c) – Other Sexual Misconduct: Defines all other forms of sexual misconduct, including voyeurism, unauthorized recording, and distribution of pornographic material.

Article 121 – Larceny and wrongful appropriation: Prescribes a court-martial for the theft or attempted theft of property.

Article 121(b) – False Pretenses, Obtaining Services Under: Defines any intentional use of false pretenses to defraud a company of its goods and services.

Article 122 – Robbery: Sanctions punishment for the theft of personal possessions using the threat of violence.

Article 122(a) – Stolen Property: Knowingly Receiving, Buying, and Concealing: Criminalizes the intentional buying, selling, and receiving of stolen property.

Article 123 – Forgery: Prescribes punishment for crimes involving falsifying signatures or papers with the intention of defrauding another individual.

Fig 4: Approved punishments for Article 15 cases. Source: Army Study Guide

Article 123(a) – Making, drawing, or uttering check, draft, or order without sufficient funds: Prescribes punishment for a soldier who knowingly makes checks, orders, or drafts without sufficient funds.

Article 124 – Maiming: Prescribes punishments for soldiers who intentionally aim to disfigure or disable another individual.

Article 125 – Sodomy: Criminalizes the act of deviant copulation with another individual or animal, regardless of the extent of penetration.

Article 126 – Arson: Prescribes punishment for the burning or attempted burning of structures, residential buildings, or personal belongings.

Article 126(a) – Burning with the Intent to Defraud: Defines any act of setting a building or property with the intention of opening false insurance claims.

Article 127 – Extortion: Criminalizes the use of leverage (secrets, violent threats) to compel another individual into taking unwanted actions.

Article 128 – Assault: Criminalizes acts that impart violence on another individual, especially with a weapon.

Article 129 – Burglary: Actions involving the forced entry into private premises to commit a criminal offense.

Article 129(b) – Unlawful Entry: Defines the act of entering private premises without the owner’s permission, but without the intention of committing any illegal offense.

Article 130 – Housebreaking: Prescribes punishment for breaking into private property without the owner’s permission.

Article 131 – Perjury: Criminalizes the act of giving false witness, both oral and written statements.

Article 13(b) – Obstructing Justice: Defines any action that delays, obstructs, and hinders a criminal investigation in progress.

Article 131(c) – Misprision of a Serious Offense: Criminalizes the act of willfully hiding a criminal offense from law enforcers.

Article 131(d) – Testify: Wrong Refusal: Defines the intentional refusal to testify on cases when you have knowledge of a crime.

Article 131(e) Seizure; Destruction; Removal, or Disposal of Property to Prevent: Defines the intentional removal or destruction of a property that is supposed to be seized.

Article 131(g) – Wrongful Interference with an Adverse Administrative Proceeding: Prescribes punishment for actions that delay, hinder, or obstruct the progress of another soldier’s adverse administrative hearing.

Article 132 – Frauds against the United States: Defines making false claims and false documents to defraud the U.S. of property.

Article 133 – Conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman: Defines the acts of bringing ridicule to their ranks or titles by COs, midshipmen, and cadets

Article 134 – General article

Article 134-1 – Abusing a public animal

Article 134-2 – Adultery

Article 134-3 – Assault—indecent

Article 134-4 – Assault—with intent to commit murder, voluntary manslaughter, rape, robbery, sodomy, arson, burglary, or housebreaking

Article 134-5 – Bigamy

Article 134-6 – Bribery and graft

Article 134-7 – Burning with intent to defraud

Article 134-8 – Check, worthless, making and uttering—by dishonorably failing to maintain funds

Article 134-9 – Cohabitation, wrongful

Article 134-10 – Correctional custody—offenses against

Article 134-11 – Debt, dishonorably failing to pay

Article 134-12 – Disloyal statements

Article 134-13 – Disorderly conduct, drunkenness

Article 134-14 – Drinking liquor with a prisoner

Article 134-16 – Drunkenness—incapacitation for the performance of duties through prior wrongful indulgence in intoxicating liquor or any drug

Article 134-17 – False or unauthorized pass offenses

Article 134-18 – Firearm, discharging—willfully, under such circumstances as to endanger human life

Article 134-19 – Fleeing the scene of an accident

Article 134-20 – Fraternization

Article 134-21 – Gambling with subordinate

Fig 5: Changes to the UCMJ. Source: US Department of Defense

Article 134-22 – Homicide, negligent

Article 134-23 – Impersonating a commissioned, warrant, noncommissioned, or petty officer, or an agent or official

Article 134-24 – Indecent acts or liberties with a child

Article 134-25 – Indecent exposure

Article 134-26 – Indecent language

Article 134-27 – Indecent acts with another

Article 134-28 – Kidnapping

Article 134-29 – Mail: taking, opening, secreting, destroying, or stealing

Article 134-30 – Mails: depositing or causing to be deposited obscene matters in

Article 134-31 – Obstructing justice

Article 134-32 – Pandering and prostitution

Article 134-33 – Public record: altering, concealing, removing, mutilating, obliterating, or destroying

Article 134-34 – Reckless Endangerment

Article 134-35 – Requesting commission of an offense

Article 134-36 – Self-injury without intent to avoid service

Article 134-37 – Sentinel or lookout: offenses against or by

Article 134-38 – Straggling

Article 134-39 – Threat or hoax: bomb

Article 134-40 – Unlawful entry

Article 134-41 – Wearing unauthorized insignia, decoration, badge, ribbon, device, or lapel button


According to Article 2 of the UCMJ, basically every military officer is subject to specific provisions of the military code. Each article defines who is accountable for punishment, but all service members are subject to the code by default. The two subsections of Article 2 lists the following individuals as subject to the code.

Subsection (a)

  • Members of a regular branch of the armed forces, including those awaiting discharge, inductees, and any other individuals that have been called to serve
  • Cades, midshipmen, and aviation cadets
  • Members of a reserve branch while inactive, except for the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard, who are only subject when in Federal service.
  • Retired service members that are entitled to pay
  • Retired service members that are under hospital care from an armed force.
  • Fleet Reserve and Fleet Marine Corps officers
  • Individuals serving a court-martial sentence, as well as prisoners of war.
  • Members serving outside the U.S. or in territories reserved for use by the U.S.

Subsection (b)

  • Any voluntary enlister who can understand the significance of enlisting

Subsection (c)

Officers who:

  • Voluntarily enlisted
  • Met the requirements for enlistment
  • Received military pay
  • Performed assigned military duties


The military has several punishments for officers who violate the UCMJ, depending on the crime. Crimes that fall into minor offenses may not have to undergo a judicial hearing. According to Article 15, your CO can decide your innocence or guilt and administer any needed punishment. This type of punishment is known as Non-Judicial Punishment, and it allows the superiors to handle those cases without involving judicial parties.

An Article 15 hearing is decided by the nature of the crime committed, and also how minor the offense is. The accused still reserves the right to request a court-martial, but it usually isn’t necessary. Punishments meted to officers by an Article 15 hearing are determined by the rank of the indicted officer and also the Cos grade level. The punishments range from a reprimand, quarters restriction, extra duty, forfeiture of pay, or a short stay in a military jail.


If your goal is to maintain a clean record as a service member in the military, then the UCMJ is a code you should master. The punitive articles cover a wide range of offenses that may seem trivial to you at first but don’t be tempted into breaking any of them.

An article 15 hearing may be a minor punishment to you, but it doesn’t help if you gain a reputation as a rule breaker. Also, a court-martial is not something you want on your record.

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