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Does the UCMJ apply to off-base conduct?

The Uniform Code of Military Justice defines the military justice system and lists criminal offenses under military law. UCMJ is considered federal law enforced by federal-level officers and military courts.

All branches of the military have strict rules of conduct on base. However, military law also goes beyond those borders. Whether active duty personnel are on-duty, off-duty or furloughed, they are still required to follow those rules. Any type of violation will fall under military jurisdiction with the possibility of prosecution.

The Limited Authority Of Civilian Law Enforcement

Civilian law enforcement can arrest military personnel for crimes committed away from the base. However, their authority ends there as they lack knowledge of the prohibitions involved in military life. Any soldier arrested by civilian police remains under the jurisdiction of the UCMJ.

Not all military crimes committed off-base are enforceable by law enforcement. For example, adultery is prohibited under the UCMJ, yet is not considered a civilian criminal offense. An arrest will not occur and local police officers are not required to notify the base. The solider will be subject to penalties under military law when they return to the base.

Career-Ending Consequences For Military Personnel

Violating military law could result in the most severe sanctions under military law: a court martial. Similar to federal criminal convictions, military personnel face penalties in those proceedings ranging from fines and reductions in rank to jail time and dishonorable discharges.

For active duty personnel accused of a military crime, legal representation from a military justice attorney is vital to protect their rights and futures.

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