UCMJ Article 91

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Denver Military Defense Attorney

One of the most defining elements of the United States military is the structured hierarchy that all service members must respect and adhere to. When authority is disrespected, it can cause trouble for any individuals involved. For example, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) Article 91 is one element of military law that is designed to address insubordinate conduct toward an authoritative figure.

Understanding the implications and consequences of violating Article 91 can help keep service members out of trouble. It can also allow them to be aware of a scenario where they may need a military defense attorney from The Law Center P.C. to fight against an inaccurate allegation.

What Exactly Is UCMJ Article 91?

UCMJ Article 91 governs the conduct of service members and warrant officers toward their superiors. It was designed in response to instances in the military where service members were accused of physically assaulting, disobeying, and disrespecting authority figures who they should be strictly following orders from.

The military is an organization where discipline and the chain of command are vital to operations. Allowing this type of behavior would be detrimental to its integrity and overall mission to protect the country against its enemies.

Elements of Article 91

Article 91 is very clear about the specific behaviors that should be punished to keep the military in order. These include the following three main acts against a superior officer while they are on duty:

  • Any form of strike or physical assault
  • Purposely disobeying specific orders
  • Spewing disrespectful language or behavior

While these violations are clear, they are not exclusive. Other behaviors could also fall under Article 91, depending on the context of the allegation. For example, disregarding an officer’s direct commands during a mission could result in an Article 91 violation, even if the decision to disobey wasn’t out of disrespect.

Consequences of Violating Article 91

Like any repercussion for a crime, the consequences for violating Article 91 will depend heavily on the severity and specific circumstances of the offense. Punishments can range anywhere from added administrative duties to a dismissal from the service.

Some of the most common consequences include:

  • Non-judicial punishment: This is the first level of punishment for a disciplinary action under Article 91. It is for less serious violations, especially if the individual is a first-time offender. Often, a commanding officer will request the service member to take on extra duties around the base, if not reduce their rank or pay.
  • General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand (GOMOR): If a GOMOR is issued as punishment for violating Article 91, it can have long-lasting effects on a service member’s career. This punishment is placed on the individual’s personnel file indefinitely, which could impact their ability to achieve a promotion or take on new assignments.
  • Discharge: If the severity of the violation outweighs a reasonable belief that they should still serve in the military, an administrative process will begin to end their service. Sometimes, this will be labeled an honorable discharge.
  • Court: For the most severe Article 91 violations, an individual could face a court-martial and enter into a formal judicial proceeding. Aside from being discharged from the military, the individual could also face expensive fines, forfeiture of pay, or even time spent in prison.


Q: What Constitutes Disrespect Under Article 91?

A: An act of disrespect generally refers to contemptuous words, actions, or inappropriate gestures toward a superior officer that are intended to cause a conflict or a negative emotional reaction. In the past, service members have been found guilty of openly defying orders and using derogatory language, as a few examples of disrespect.

What matters is the context and manner in which the words or actions are delivered. This is how even non-verbal cues or body language could be considered disrespectful and worthy of punishment under Article 91.

Q: Can a Service Member Be Charged Under Article 91 for Off-Duty Conduct?

A: Yes, there are scenarios where a service member could face Article 91 charges for actions that were committed when off-duty. When joining the military, it is made clear that service members are expected to maintain the standards of conduct and respect for superiors at all times, not just when they are on duty. This not only includes informal interactions outside the service, but it even extends to areas such as informal conversations with friends and social media posts.

Q: Are There Defenses Available for Service Members Charged Under Article 91?

A: If a service member believes that they are inaccurately being accused of violating Article 91, they could use a number of different defenses, depending on the circumstances. For example, if they believe that a specific officer has a personal disagreement with them and has unjustly framed an Article 91 violation to have them removed from service, a military defense attorney could help collect evidence to make this case.

There could even be scenarios that are much simpler, like the superior officer misconstruing or misunderstanding what exactly was said. This could be dealt with in or out of court, depending on how contentious the disagreement is.

Q: How Do Mitigating Circumstances Affect Article 91 Proceedings?

A: A mitigating circumstance is a factor that lessens how severe an act would appear on its own. In the context of Article 91, mitigating circumstances can have a significant impact on the outcome of a service member’s case. Some examples include:

  • How the service member in question has acted in the past
  • Any circumstances that led up to the incident
  • Their mental state at the time of the violation

If the service member proactively acknowledges their wrongdoing and displays clear remorse for their actions, that can also help prove their genuine desire to make amends and take accountability.

Contact The Law Center P.C. for Defense Support Today

If you have more questions about Article 91 or need support when addressing an allegation, connect with our military defense attorneys today. We are well-versed in how Article 91 operates and what it was intended to do. We understand the unique circumstances that service members could face and are dedicated to providing whatever support is needed most.


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