Article 134 - Jumping from Vessel into the Water
Jumping from vessel into the water is an offense under the UCMJ. This offense
is not mentioned anywhere in the text of Article 134, which is also called
the 'general Article'. Article 134 is called the general article
because it covers a large number of offenses which are not given their
own Articles. You can find this offense in paragraph 91 under Article 134.
The text of statute of Article 134 says that all neglects and disorders
which are adverse to the discipline and good order found in the armed
forces, all conducts that can bring discredit to the armed forces and
offenses and crimes that are not capital, can be punished by convening
a court martial.
Elements of the offense
- The accused leaped or jumped into the water from a vessel that was being
used by the armed forces.
- The accused's act was intentional and wrongful.
- In these circumstances, the accused's conduct was adverse to the discipline
and good order found in the armed forces or the nature of the act brought
discredit to the armed forces.
Explanation of elements
'Being used by' is defined as any vessel operated by or controlled
by the armed forces. The offense applies whether the act was committed
on a vessel located at sea, in port or at anchor.
Maximum punishment for the offense
If a service member is held guilty of jumping from a vessel into a water,
he can be punished with a bad conduct discharge, forfeiture of allowances
and pay and 6 months of confinement.
An example of how this offense could be committed
Service members have rarely been charged with 'jumping from vessel
into the water' and only a handful of cases are recorded. The point
behind making a special provision for this offense in the UCMJ is the
inherent danger associated with the act.
Jumping from a height into water can cause grievous injuries. It has been
said that when the body hits water from a height, it feels like you are
hitting concrete. What happens is, when the body hits the water at an
awkward angle, the water does not get displayed quickly enough and so
it acts like a solid.
If an individual jumps feet first and hits the water improperly, he can
suffer from hip or back injuries. If he hits the water head first, he
can suffer head or neck injuries. Many people have suffered broken bones,
internal bleeding, and even paralysis from jumping into water from heights.
Some have even lost their lives.
Another reason why the act is punishable is because no reasons can justify
why a soldier had to jump into the water, except when if there is a fire
on the ship or it is going under because of damage. So it becomes a disciplinary
issue. If a superior orders a soldier to jump into the water, then it
is another case altogether and the case will be pursued appropriately.
If the service member jumps into the water of his own will and if the armed
forces does not punish it, other soldiers may be motivated to do the same,
leading to disastrous consequences. So this provision also discourages
soldiers from copying such acts.
Let's see a case from 2012 involving a Colonel. The Colonel was charged
with a number of offenses like sexual harassment, misusing official funds,
falsifying records, bigamy and more. After his arrest, he was being transported
by ship to give the prosecution more time to build the cases against him.
He escaped from custody by killing the soldiers assigned to guard him
and then violated Article 134 of the Manual for Court Martial, by jumping
into the water to complete his escape. Luckily, he was caught. A court
martial was convened to try the offenses against him and he is now awaiting