Are soldiers in the US under different legal jurisdiction than ordinary citizens or is it only for crimes committed whilst at war?
While the military does have its whole court martial system, judicial punishment usually depends on where the crime was committed. On post, MPs will pick you up, off post, cops will pick you up. However, punitive actions in accordance with the U.C.M.J. will still be taken against soldiers regardless of civilian status. This means soldiers might have to undergo two court proceedings, one with civilians and another at a court martial, or they may be acquitted in a civilian court but punished under a military one. So actually, if you think about it, we actually can get twice the punishment for committing a crime. The exact circumstances of all this depends entirely on the crime committed and its circumstances, and because of that I’m afraid I can’t really be more specific here. I can’t say I had a lot of run-ins with the law when I was enlisted.
While overseas, crimes committed by soldiers off-post are at the mercy of the local government, which can make things very difficult. At that point, it’s up to the local government whether they release the soldier to their unit or they proceed with their own judicial system, which could take months, if not years. I’ve been told that the U.S. will sometimes act as a pseudo-asylum for a soldier, keeping them on U.S. soil indefinitely so that the local law enforcement can’t take the soldier away to rot in some prison before everything’s settled. This is just what I’ve heard, though I think it would make a fantastic story set up.
We do have a thing called SOFA (status of forces agreement) which is basically an agreement between the U.S. Army and a number of countries that says if a soldier commits a crime on their soil, we still get jurisdiction over them. When I was in South Korea, we were ordered to carry our SOFA card with us at all times, and should we be picked up by foreign police we were to remain calm and respectful, and when safe we were to show them both our military I.D. and the SOFA card.
Soldiers are still expected to stick to strict laws even during deployment and during combat, and any variation from those orders is intended to be written up. Intended, of course. No matter where a soldier is, whether off post, in the US or out, they still fall under U.C.M.J., which is all encompassing and all powerful, all hail the U.C.M.J.
I hope that answered your question! I’m not too strong on legal stuff, so while I encourage you to send a follow-up, please do it with the understanding that I might not be helpful!
“Court Martial” marks the production debut of the Starfleet dress uniform that would become a staple of Star Trek and its sequel series. The episode was filmed before the envelope portion of “The Menagerie,” which actually made it to air over two months earlier thanks to a reduced workload on the special effects department.
Hello! Would it be possible for a soldier to be discharged or even arrested due to a conspiracy of dirty superiors who don't want him to tell other of their criminal actions? Also what are the main reasons for a soldier to be discharged? Thank you so much! :)
Well, I think so, but it might be tricky.
Asking for the main reasons someone is discharged is like asking what main reasons people enlist for, i.e. too many to really count. I guess I can try to name some of the more common ones.
Types of Discharge
• Honorable Discharge: the good one. It’s also the default assuming you didn’t fuck anything else up. You get full benefits, you can reenlist if you want, and no one will ever question your service.
• General Discharge: not necessarily bad, but it means you fucked something up during your enlistment. You should theoretically still get all of your benefits. You can apply to change a “general discharge” to an “honorable discharge” after six months of exiting service, although how long and how effective your application will be varies. Other-Than-Honorable Discharge: Basically the military’s saying “you fucked up but we don’t want to do the paperwork for it.” No reenlistment, no benefits. This level is where you start seeing some serious discrimination regarding finding civilian jobs or work. Bad Conduct Discharge: You fucked up and we did the paperwork for it. You’ve gone through a court martial and probably were in jail. Zero benefits, zero support. Dishonorable Discharge: You probably fucking murdered or raped somebody for this one ya brute. No benefits, no reenlistment, no support, and you can’t own firearms. Oh, and good luck finding a job. Like, ever.
Reasons people get discharged:
Overweight/P.F.T. test failure Soldiers who are over the allowable weight and who can’t pass a physical fitness test are flagged. That basically means that the leadership are keeping their eye on that soldier to see if they improve, and if they don’t, they can be discharged. This is a completely imperfect system because while you can’t receive promotions or rewards when flagged, you also don’t necessarily have to stop being flagged to stay in. If your leadership likes you enough or doesn’t care, you can theoretically be flagged for years. I knew of a guy in Korea who’d been flagged for weight for two years. Same with P.F.T.
If someone really doesn’t like a flagged soldier though, they may start pushing to chapter them (discharge them) ASAP, or whenever they’re technically allowed to.
These discharges should be honorable, and as long as the soldier has served 36 months, they should receive all of the benefits as any other veteran, such as medical coverage by the V.A. and the G.I. Bill for school. If the soldier has served less than 36 months, they receive a percentage of coverage dependent on their time in service, but not full.
Compassionate Release/Dependency or Hardship Discharge This is more adequately explained by a more thorough source than what I can provide, so I recommend giving this page a read and perhaps doing a little more research on your own. Essentially, if you or a family member literally cannot carry on with you enlisted, whether due to illness or other hardship, you can be discharged honorably earlier than your contract states.
Criminal Activity This can include anything from shoplifting to hard drug abuse. Depending on the chain of command and the severity of the infraction, you may lose position, rank, or be discharged at a level lower than General Discharge.
Article 15 I intend on doing a master post on the grand and annoying article 15 one day, but basically they’re punitive papers explaining how you did a bad thing and what they’re gonna do to you for it. You can get an article 15 for anything from chewing gum in formation to sexual harassment, so there’s a lot of potential here. Article 15s can be fought if you want them to go to court martial, but most people don’t bother because it’s such a dramatic step to take.
If I had to say, I think the easiest way for someone to set someone up would be either through set-up P.T. failure, planted drug possession, or numerous article 15s.
PT failure: posture is important during a P.T. test. We have to perform push ups, sit ups, and a run, and if the person judging you is judging you harshly, you may wind up with a much lower number of push ups and sit ups because your form wasn’t correct. An intentionally harsh judge may force a soldier to flunk a P.T. test by not counting their reps.
Planted drug possession: nice and simply. Plant some drugs in someone’s room and then wait for a barracks inspection. There’s very little anyone can say or do to fight that charge. Alternatively, you could drug someone against their will, and then select them “randomly” for a urine test, and then boom: they piss hot, they’re on drugs, kick their ass out.
As for the final one, you can be recommended for discharge if you have too many article 15s, and they don’t even have to be all related. I knew someone in AIT was being threatened with discharge because he had an article 15 each for showing up late to formation, another one for not cleaning his room thoroughly enough, and another one for, you guessed it: chewing gum in formation.
These are all relatively minor infractions and most NCOs I know wouldn’t bother giving someone an article 15 unless the soldier had made a terrible habit of all of these things, (for reference, that soldier had a habit of showing up late, but the other two were not habitual enough to warrant an article 15 imo) so it’s very easy to see that the leadership of that soldier just particularly didn’t like that soldier.
In all of these circumstances the soldier can request a court martial to prove their innocence, but you’d probably need to hire a defense attorney, and you’d need to actually come up with evidence that supports your innocence. It’s really hard because your leadership can basically craft all the evidence in their favor, but it’s not completely hopeless.
Dishonorable discharges are basically for the most heinous crimes. The ones that spring to mind immediately are sexual assault and homicide, but going AWOL or sharing classified information will probably warrant some consideration as well.
Please keep in mind that dishonorable discharges must be ordered via court martial. It’s basically a trial, with a judge, jury, and prosecutor included, and it goes way above your unit. If you’re accused of sexual assault but the allegation is never confirmed or you somehow avoid a court martial, you won’t be dishonorably discharged.
“Court Martial” was the TV debut of actor Winston De Lugo (pictured above, right) and as far as first experiences go, it would be hard to imagine a better one. De Lugo told one interviewer: “They gave me a trailer, which really surprised me – a trailer indoors. They had them lined up in the back of the soundstage. And my name was on a card slot by the door. I had never gotten anything like that doing off-Broadway or summer stock. And ‘Bones’ came up and rapped on my door and he’s looking up at me and reporting about whether it was going to be five minutes or whatever and asking if there was anything I needed. He made me about as comfortable as I could be. I couldn’t believe it! I thought, 'When they realize I’m just a nobody from New York, they’ll call security and drag me out of here.’”
I love movies about the law, and Breaker Morant delivers. Directed by Bruce Beresford and starring Edward Woodward in the title role, Breaker Morant follows the court martial of three Australian soldiers in the British army accused of murdering Boer prisoners and a German missionary during the Boer War. The plot is based on historical events in South Africa in 1901.
The Boer War itself was historically unprecedented. The Boers, Dutch farmers living in the Transvaal, organized themselves into commando units and fought the British using unconventional guerrilla tactics. In response, the British interned Boer civilians in concentration camps and created their own commando unit, the Bushveldt Carbineers, to wage the counterinsurgency.
The trial is significant as one of the few attempts to prosecute soldiers for the killing of enemy soldiers during wartime.
The trial is largely conceived of as a politically-motivated sham, but the soldiers receive an unexpectedly spirited defense from their attorney. Throughout the trial, the defendants unsuccessfully argued that they were following valid superior orders (a strategy that would be prove a failure at the Nuremburg Trials after World War II almost fifty years later).
In the end, the three soldiers are convicted and two of them are executed by firing squad the next morning at dawn.
I couldn’t help but feel conflicted about the outcome. On the one hand, the trial seemed fixed from the beginning and seemed to deny the defendants of the same due process they were accused of depriving the executed Boer prisoners. On the other hand, the defendants were guilty of violent and immoral acts and deserved conviction. But ultimately the cast is very good and the writing is excellent. Breaker Morant is definitely worth watching.