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Article 133 - Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and Gentleman

Article 133 deals with officers, midshipman or cadets who are convicted of behaving in a manner unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman. Such a service member will be punished as directed by a court martial. Here 'officer' includes commissioned officers, midshipmen and cadets, both men and women.

Elements that come under Article 133

  • The defendant has committed or omitted to commit certain acts.
  • In the circumstance, the act that he committed or omitted were unbecoming as an officer and a gentleman.

Explanation for the elements mentioned under the article

'Gentleman' as used in the article, refers to a male or a female commissioned officer, midshipman or cadet.

Any behavior or action performed by the individual in his official capacity, which was disgraceful or dishonorable for someone in his place, which seriously compromised the character of the officer, or any action or behavior in his private or unofficial capacity, which disgraced or dishonored the personal position of the officer, while also seriously compromising his standing as an officer, is conduct that is in violation of the provisions under Article 133.

The ideal officer and perfect gentleman is expected to have certain attributes. A lack of these attributes are shown in acts involving unfair dealing, dishonesty, in-decorum, indecency, cruelty, injustice and lawlessness.

The article mentions that the armed forces does not and cannot expect all its service members to adhere to unrealistic levels of moral standards, but there are some limits of tolerance. An officer, midshipman or cadet should not let his personal standards fall below these limits. Otherwise the individual's standing as an officer and a gentleman will be seriously compromised. In fact, commissioned officers, midshipmen and cadets are prohibited from indulging in any activities that will compromise the provisions of this article.

Acts that are punishable under other articles are also punishable under Article 133, provided the act amounted to conduct not expected from an officer and gentleman. For example, if an officer steals property, he will be held guilty of violating not only this article, but also article 121 (larceny or wrongful appropriation).

Wherever an offense is same as a specific offense set forth elsewhere in the Manual for Court Martial, the elements needed as proof will be the same as those mentioned in the respective article. The additional requirement is the act or offense which the service member was party to, should be unbecoming of an officer and gentleman.

What constitutes a violation of Article 133

There are many offenses that come under the ambit of Article 133. Here are a few examples.

  • Making false official statements.
  • Dishonorable failure in paying debts.
  • Cheating during an exam.
  • Opening a letter belong to another person and reading it, without authority.
  • Using defamatory of insulting language against another officer when the officer is present or about the officer to another service member.
  • Being drunk and acting in a disorderly fashion in public places.
  • Associating in public with persons who are known to be prostitutes.
  • Committing or attempt to commit crimes where moral turpitude is present.
  • Failure of the officer, without cause, to support his family.

Maximum punishment prescribed under Article 133

Dismissal of the officer from the force, forfeiture of all his allowances and pay, and confinement for a time that is recommended for a similar offense. If nothing is prescribed, confinement for a year. Lesser included offenses under Article 80 (attempts) are also included under article 133. A 'lesser included offense' is one where all the elements listed (to impose penalty) are also found in another more serious criminal activity. For more information on this article, please refer to the Manual for Courts Martial.

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