The Air Force case of United States v. Hale has been decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) in a decision that could bring heavy implications to military criminal justice as a whole. Within U.S. v. Hale, the CAAF used evidence of conduct not regulated by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) to prove the intent of arguably-related conduct that was regulated by the UCMJ. The use of this seemingly unconnected conduct as evidence originated in a lower Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) ruling before it was moved to the CAAF, where all aspects of the lower case were affirmed.
KEY DETAILS OF U.S. V. HALE
Lieutenant Colonel Hale — who was an Air Force reservist, not an active duty member — was convicted on several counts of larceny, attempted larceny, and falsifying official statements. Hale had apparently lodged with his relatives while in the reserves but recorded the stay and its “expenses” in a fictitious manner in order to collect reimbursement, going as far as creating fake receipts for his stay. The penalties for his actions included confinement, total forfeitures, and a dismissal from the Air Force reserves.
WHAT CONDUCT OCCURS WHEN IN RESERVES?
Due to the fact that Hale was not technically performing any reserve duty while lodging with his relatives, it is argued that his behaviors were not subject to regulations under the UCMJ. Specifically, it was stated that Hale’s misconduct occurred in jurisdictional gaps within the performance of inactive-duty training (IDT), such as during lunch hours or overnight between training days. The Air Force CCA actually decided to reverse one larceny charge since Hale did not receive any benefits from the effort that apparently occurred in a jurisdictional gap. It did not, however, back down from an attempted larceny charge for that same offense.
Most notably, the Air Force CCA said that Hale’s actions when he was not subject to the UCMJ were indicative of his intentions when he was subject to the UCMJ. The connection between UCMJ jurisdiction and general criminal intent was further expanded by the fact that Hale had been convicted of charges that only alleged misconduct occurred “on or about” certain dates. The mere fact that an exact date could not be determined meant it could be reasonably argued that all of his misconduct occurred when he was not subject to the UCMJ’s codes. Despite the vagueness of these possibilities, a judge instructed it would be permitted to convict him.
TAKING SUBSTANTIAL STEPS TOWARDS A CRIME
In order to reach a conviction in any military crimes case, Judge Sparks explained within the majority ruling that it must be shown that the defendant took “substantial steps” to commit a crime. In Hale’s case, it was deemed that his decision to stay with his relatives and not use other forms of available lodging was a “substantial step.” Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, the majority ruling explained that Hale’s actions when he was clearly not subject to the UCMJ could reasonably be used to weigh his intent when he was. In specific, how he came to the decision to stay with his relatives and eventually falsify lodging receipts likely did not occur while he was performing a reserve duty or IDT, yet it was considered as evidence of his intent all the same.
One of the Judges did dissent from the CAAF findings in U.S. v. Hale. Judge Ohlson held that acts that constitute a “substantial step” to completing a military crime must occur while an individual holds some military status. He continued his dissent by saying a military court must rule in matters that were or were not, and that the Hale case’s “on or about” timeline was embedded too heavily in speculation. Despite Judge Ohlson’s dissent, the CAAF ruling stands.
IMPLICATIONS OF THE RULING & HOW TO GET LEGAL HELP
The conclusion of U.S. v. Hale is significant in that it considerably broadens the power of the UCMJ by allowing its rules to be considered outside of normal military jurisdictions. While its codes do not directly apply to an expanded set of circumstances, the ability to weigh intent as if an individual was subject to the UCMJ is significant enough to have already affirmed the conviction of Hale. In effect, any military service member — active, inactive, or reserved — may be held under the UCMJ’s regulations at any given time as long as a loose connection of intent can be drawn later.
Effectively being held subject to the UCMJ at all times places each military service member before an unfair situation. You could be accused of a UCMJ violation you never knew possible, and slammed with charges and penalties before you know it. How can you stand up for your rights if you never knew you were technically in violation of the UCMJ?
Come to Military Criminal Defense Attorney Joseph L. Jordan, who serves diligently to protect the rights of our nation’s protectors. He and his legal team accept cases for all sorts of military crimes from service members in all branches of the Armed Forces, and who are stationed at bases all around the globe. You can also depend on Attorney Jordan for representation for a military court martial. The bottom line is if you need someone to shield you from an unjust conviction or penalty as a military service member, you want the trusted, experienced representation of Attorney Joseph Jordan.
Learn about your legal options and Attorney Jordan’s services by calling (866) 624-7503 now.