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Article 134- Drinking Liquor with Prisoner

The text of Article 134 pertaining to this violation of the UCMJ says that if an enlisted member engages in any neglect or disorder which harms the discipline or good order of the armed forces or any conduct capable of bringing discredit to the armed forces, he will be punished by a court martial. The punishment so given will be on the bases of the degree and nature of the offense.

Since drinking liquor with a prisoner is not a capital offense, the proof presented by the prosecution must prove all the elements of this violation of the UCMJ.

Any improper or irregular act committed by an enlisted member is potentially harmful even if it is in a remote or indirect sense. However, Article 134 does not include such distant effects. It confines itself to cases, where the prejudice is reasonably palpable and direct.

Elements of drinking liquor with a prisoner

  • The defendant was assigned sentinel duty or was performing another assignment where he was given charge of a prisoner.
  • While he was working in this capacity, the defendant unlawfully gave the prisoner intoxicating liquor and drank it himself.
  • The prisoner was being guarded by the accused.
  • The accused was aware that the person under his charge was a prisoner.
  • In these circumstances, the accused's conduct was against the discipline and good order expected of armed forces personnel or the act by its nature has brought discredit to the armed forces.

Explanation of certain elements

  • A 'prisoner' is defined as an individual who has been placed in custody or confinement according to the Rules of Court Martial (R.C.M) 302, 304 and/or 305 or is serving a sentence handed to him by a court martial and has not been given his freedom by the proper authority.
  • 'Liquor' is defined as an alcoholic beverage.

Rule 302 contains a privilege where the accused can prevent a statement, made by him during a mental examination, or any other derivative evidence obtained by using the statement, from being used during his sentencing.

Rule 304 concerns admissions and confessions. If the accused made an involuntary statement or if any evidence has been derived from the statement, such a statement is inadmissible at the trial except when it is used to impeach the accused or to prosecute him for perjury, false swearing or making false official statements.

Rule 305 concerns issuing a warning to the accused about his rights. Any statement that is obtained by violating this rule is deemed to have been taken involuntarily. For instance, the Fifth Amendment says that if a person suspected of committing an offense (who is being interrogated) requests counsel, any statements that the accused gives after making such a request will be inadmissible as evidence, unless his counsel is present during the interrogation.

Scenario for drinking liquor with a prisoner

Many former armed forces personnel are serving jail time for various crimes. It may so happen that a soldier on guard duty, feeling sorry for an inmate or after getting acquainted with an inmate, slips the prisoner some liquor and even drinks it with him.

The prisoner can be anybody, it does not have to be a former member of the armed forces. This provision of the UMCJ specifically prohibits such behavior by armed forces personnel, on the penalty of being punished.

Maximum punishment that can be levied for this offense

The maximum punishment that can be handed to an accused held guilty of drinking liquor with a prisoner is three months of confinement and 2/3 rd loss of monthly pay, for three months.

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