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Article 134- Check, Worthless, Making or Uttering- by Dishonorably Failing to Maintain Funds

Article 134 covers a number of offenses. One of them is check, worthless, making or uttering- by dishonorably failing to maintain funds. The main text of Article 134 is common to all the offenses. It says that any neglect or disorder which prejudice the discipline or good order in the armed forces or any conduct that brings discredit to the armed forces, shall be dealt with through a court martial and accordingly punished.

Check bouncing cases have become a serious problem nationwide. The armed forces have also had their share of these cases. Check bouncing is strictly dealt with in the U.S armed forces and heavy punishments are levied on personnel who are held guilty of such offenses. Here are the elements under Article 134- dishonorable failure to maintain funds.

Elements of Article 134 to show that this offense occurred

  • The defendant made and uttered a check.
  • He made and uttered the check to purchase an article, to pay a debt or for a given purpose.
  • The defendant subsequently did not maintain or place sufficient funds in his account or did not make arrangements for credit with his bank, to pay the amount he had written, in full when the check was presented for payment.
  • His failure to ensure the payment was dishonorable
  • In the circumstances, the accused's conduct prejudiced the discipline and good order expected from personnel in the armed forces or the nature of it, has brought discredit to the armed forces.

The term 'uttering' means to display or exhibit a check to another person; attempting to cash the check or put it into circulation and while doing so, stating or implying (directly or indirectly) that the check is genuine.

Maximum punishment for violation of the provisions of this section

The enlisted member can be punished with a bad conduct discharge, forfeiture of allowances and pay and six months of confinement.

Different from an offense under Article 123a

Article 123a concerns making, drawing, or uttering a check, draft, or order without sufficient funds. Offenses under article 134 are different from those under Article 123a, in that the enlisted member had no intention to deceive or defraud the person or organization to whom the check was made out, drawn, uttered, or delivered and it is not necessary that the accused knew at the time that his account did not or would not hold sufficient funds to make the payment.

In Article 123a, the accused intends to defraud the receiver at the time he makes, draws, or utters the draft, order or check.

In this case, the offense is the accused's conduct after he utters the check. An enlisted member cannot be prosecuted only on the basis that he was negligent of maintaining bank balance. The conduct of the accused must reflect gross indifference or bad faith. Similar to the offense of dishonorable failure to pay debt under Article 134, the accused should show dishonorable conduct. The other elements under paragraph 71 (Article 71) of the Manual for Court Martial are also applicable here.

Example for Article 134- Dishonorable Failure to Maintain Funds

Let us see the case of a soldier who was in the Marine Corps and had served in Operation Desert Storm during the Gulf War. Unfortunately, two of the checks he had issued, bounced. When he came back from his overseas deployment, he was hauled up and given 30 days of restriction, 30 days of EPD (extra punitive duties), reduction in rank from lance corporal to private (first class) and a three- month pay cut.

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