There are numerous crimes for which a military servicemember could be court martialed. While they all have good purposes behind them, some of these laws can be quite confusing.
One of the most confusing military laws involves “misbehavior before the enemy” from Article 99 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The penalties for a conviction could be as serious as the death penalty, so if you are facing a court martial for this crime, it is important to understand the basics.
Article 99 of the UCMJ lists several actions that could result in “misbehavior before the enemy,” which include:
- Running away
- Abandoning or surrendering a team or property that you are supposed to defend
- Endangering others or property through disobedience, neglect or misconduct
- Casting away arms or ammo
- Committing cowardly conduct
- Quitting your place of duty to plunder or pillage
- Causing false alarm
- Failing to engage the enemy as ordered
- Failing to provide assistance and relief to troops when possible during battle
You can read the actual text of Article 99, but these are the actions the military will consider misbehavior before the enemy. For this crime to be an option, you have to be a member of the armed forces and in the presence of the enemy. Once these factors are satisfied, committing any of the above actions could bring a court martial with serious consequences.
The problem with misbehavior before the enemy
The problem with this legislation is that it does not admit of nuance. “Committing cowardly conduct” is, to some degree, a matter of subjective interpretation and it depends greatly on the details surrounding the situation. Similarly, “causing false alarm” can be problematic, especially if you were convinced a threat was real, thus making the alarm truthful and appropriate to the situation. A simple mistake in interpretation of data and responding accordingly could result in a court martial.
What you can do
The most important thing you can do if you are facing an Article 99 court martial is talk with an experienced lawyer. An attorney who knows the law and knows the procedures involved in this type of case can provide you with strong defense and sound legal counsel to help protect your rights.