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Is your conduct unbecoming an officer?

Integrity is a virtue the military values highly. After all, members of the armed services defend the country's ideals. Therefore, each branch of the military sets standards for morality that are higher than those of the general public. This is because of the serious responsibilities service members have and because they represent the United States by their actions.

Because of the weight the military gives to moral and ethical behavior, certain actions fall under the heading of "conduct unbecoming an officer." Often, items included under this heading are those for which civilians would not receive punishment although others may lose respect for civilians whose conduct is unbecoming. In the military, however, that loss of respect can go deep. In fact, if you are facing a charge of conduct unbecoming an officer, your military future may be on the line.

Your reputation and your future

Conduct unbecoming is often a secondary offense to other more serious crimes. Nevertheless, you are subject to court martial and whatever penalties the court decides upon following a conviction, possibly including prison or dishonorable discharge. If the court does not dismiss you from the military, you may have to wait much longer before you make the next rank. If you are in an officer training program, the court may postpone your graduation. You may have to forfeit your pay.

Some common examples of conduct unbecoming an officer include the following:

  • Drunkenness on base or in a public place
  • Speaking with disrespect to or about an officer
  • Cheating on a training exercise or test
  • Lying on an official statement
  • Reading someone else's mail
  • Associating with prostitutes
  • Behaving in a manner that is indecent or disorderly

Your conduct as an officer includes more than the time you are in your uniform. Personal matters may cause your superiors to question your integrity. For example, if you fail to financially support your family or fail to pay your debts without good reason, you may face charges of conduct unbecoming an officer.

Because your career and your future are on the line, you may be rightly concerned about the charges you face. However, interpreting someone's integrity can sometimes be subjective, and there may be extenuating circumstances in your defense that the court should hear. With a skilled attorney who has experience in military law, you may be able to fight the charges against you and stay on the right track.

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