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Article 134 - Debt, Dishonorably Failing To Pay

Any person who borrows a specific sum of money from an alleged person/persons at the alleged time, and dishonorably fails to pay even after the alleged due date, is in violation of the general Article 134 and shall be punished as deemed fit by the military court.

The elements of crime that the article covers are as follows -

  • The accused had borrowed a specific sum of money from the alleged person/persons and was indebted to them
  • The debt had become due and payable by the accused on the said date
  • The accused dishonorably failed to repay the debt even though it was still due and payable by him or her
  • Under the alleged circumstances, the accused person's conduct was of the nature such that it brought discredit upon the armed forces or it was to the prejudice of the discipline and good order of the forces.

Explanation of the article

To be charged under the article 134, for dishonorably failing to pay debt, the accused person should have failed to repay the debt not just due to negligence, but because of the absence of due care. A dishonorable failure to pay is characterized by fraud or deceit, with the accused deliberately, willfully evading the debt or evading it in bad faith. It is also dishonorable if the debt was based on false promises, all of which are a result of the accused person's overall indifferent attitude towards his or her obligations.

Also, the conduct of the accused should have been in a manner such that it causes an obvious and direct damage to the good order of the armed forces, or it should be of such a nature that it damages the reputation of the service.

Note - It is important to note that for the debt to be the basis of offense under this article, the accused must not have had a counter claim according to his or her belief or a fact. Also, a person cannot be charged of dishonorably failing to pay a debt if there had been an actual dispute between the accused and the party he or she is indebted to, according to the facts or a law that in any way affects the obligation of the accused to pay.

Situations when accused is proven guilty

If the court finds beyond reasonable doubt that there is sufficient evidence such as the accused person's past debt history, his failure to make payments, late payments made, failure to pay rent or contact rental agent in spite of receiving a formal notice, then the accused can be convicted of the offense of dishonorably failing to pay the debt. In the sense, the accused should have a "criminal state of mind" and he or she should be totally indifferent to his or her obligation with regards to the debt.

The accused, however, may not be proven guilty if the court fails to obtain facts that suggest that the conduct of the accused was dishonorable with regards to the debt. Also, it is not an offense if it fails to resolve inconsistencies which suggest the inability of the accused to pay or lack of evasion or deceit on his part. So if the judge or panel finds evidence that suggests otherwise and a lack of "criminal state of mind", such as the accused being in agreement with the creditor, mistakes in the terms of debt or a satisfaction of the debt, the accused may not be guilty of the offense.

It is necessary to note that mere failure to pay the debt back does not make it dishonorable conduct and the accused may be punished for his or her inability to pay.

Maximum punishment

Should the court find evidence, which proves beyond reasonable doubt, that the accused had willfully evaded his or her debt obligations or has denied the existence of debt, or fails to pay the debt in bad faith even after the due date has passed, he or she will be subject to confinement of no more than six months as maximum punishment.

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