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Article 109 Waste, Destruction or Spoilage of Non- Military Property

Article 109 deals with the deliberate wastage, destruction or damage of non- military real or private property. Willful and wrongful destruction, wastage, spoilage and damage draws punishment as decided through a court martial process under this article. 'Real' property refers to land and whatever structures are erected on land and whatever is growing on land. Burning down a building, cutting trees on private property, damaging a fence, etc. may all constitute an offense under this article. The critical components of Article 109 sections are as follows:

a) Deliberately spoiling or wasting real property that is non- military owned

Elements:

  • That at a specific time and place, the accused:
    • recklessly/ deliberately wasted or
    • recklessly/ deliberately spoiled a specific real property in a specified manner
  • That this property belonged to a specific person.
  • That the property had a specified value.

Note: a) Willful spoilage or wastage is the critical component in these trials. The prosecution has to establish that the accused willfully, knowingly and with ill- intent carried out the act.

b) Where the accused is charged with reckless spoilage or wastage, the prosecution has to show that he exhibited a greater degree of carelessness than can be attributed to negligence. It has to be established that the accused showed wanton disregard for the impact of his recklessness on the property.

Maximum Punishment: For property valued at $500 or less, maximum punishment is one year confinement, bad conduct discharge as well as forfeiture of all allowances and pay. For property valued above $500, maximum punishment is forfeiture of all allowances and pay, dishonorable discharge as well as five years confinement.

b) Destruction or damage of non- military personal property

Elements:

  • That at a specific time and place, the accused deliberately and wrongfully destroyed/ damaged certain non- military personal property in a specific manner.
  • That the accused's intention was to damage/ destroy the property.
  • That this property belonged to a specific person.
  • That the property had a specific value.

Note: a) The property is deemed to be destroyed if it has been so badly injured that it can no longer be used for the purpose it is intended. It is not necessary to show that the property has been utterly destroyed.

b) Any physical injury to the property is construed as damage.

Maximum Punishment: If the property is valued at $500 or less, the maximum punishment is one year confinement, bad conduct discharge and forfeiture of all allowances and pay. For property valued over $500, the accused faces maximum punishment of five years confinement, forfeiture of all allowances and pay as well as dishonorable discharge.

Example of Article 109 Violations

In United States v. Jones, 50 C.M.R. 724 (A.C.M.R. 1975), conviction under Article 109 was not supported because the prosecution failed to clearly establish that the damage/ destruction of non- military property was the intended objective of the actions carried out by the accused although actual damage/ destruction to property may have occurred.

In United States v. Youkum, 8 M.J. 763 (A.C.M.R. 1980), there was clear evidence that the accused intended to damage/ destroy the property of another when he drove his vehicle at high speed directly at the victim and his parked vehicle. The accused had initiated the act in a angry state of mind and he did not stop his vehicle's movement toward the victim until after he had caused significant damage to the latter, his parked vehicle as well as his own vehicle. This was deemed as sufficient circumstantial evidence to show the accused's wrongful intent to willfully destroy/ damage non- military personal property.

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