What is an Article 119 Charge?
May 15, 2021
Article 119 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is one of the most violent crimes a person can be charged with while serving in the military. If you have been accused of manslaughter, this means the prosecution has already had time to gather evidence and testimony supporting their claims.
Joseph L. Jordan, Attorney at Law offers skilled criminal defense for military servicemen and women. Our lead attorney is a former Army JAG officer who will learn the ins and outs of your case to ensure exceptional representation and protect your rights in court. Learn more about what it means to be charged with an Article 119 offense and how Joseph L. Jordan can help defend you.
Murder vs. Manslaughter
The unlawful, premeditated or unpremeditated taking of another person’s life without justification is considered murder. Being involved in another crime that results in someone’s death—including rape, burglary, or assault—can also result in a murder charge. You can find more information about these charges in Article 118 of the UCMJ.
Manslaughter differs from murder, but it still results in a person’s death. It is defined as killing someone without malice, but in a cruel or unusual manner without legal authority and not in self-defense. Manslaughter is considered a lesser charge because it doesn’t involve malicious intent or forethought. Most cases arise from causing lethal injuries in the heat of the moment or as a result of criminal recklessness.
Voluntary Manslaughter vs. Involuntary Manslaughter
Just as there is a distinction between premeditated and unpremeditated murder, military law views voluntary and involuntary manslaughter differently.
The crime is considered voluntary if the accused intentionally harms another person “in the heat of sudden passion caused by adequate provocation.” Any emotional or disturbing circumstances leading up to the incident don’t excuse the manslaughter, but they mitigate the accused’s moral blameworthiness.
Examples of voluntary manslaughter include:
- Walking in on an unfaithful spouse and killing one or both adulterers in a fit of rage
- Seeing a stranger vandalizing a building and attacking them out of anger
- Driving aggressively and causing a fatal accident as a result of road rage
Involuntary manslaughter incorporates culpable negligence, recklessness, or non-felonious illegal activity that results in a victim’s death. The incident is wholly unintentional, but the accused is still responsible.
Examples of involuntary manslaughter include:
- Playing with a loaded gun and accidentally shooting someone
- Causing a fatal car accident while driving drunk
- Robbing someone and knocking them down while trying to escape, causing injuries that result in the person’s death
Penalties for a Manslaughter Conviction
Even though manslaughter is a separate charge from murder, it is still a serious and violent crime with steep consequences. If you are convicted of violating Article 119, here are the sentences you might face:
- Dishonorable discharge: This form of military discharge strips away years of benefits and accomplishments you worked so hard to achieve throughout your military career.
- Forfeiture of all pay and allowances: As soon as the convening authority approves your sentence, you stop receiving pay and allowances from fulfilling your role in the military.
- Confinement: If you are charged with involuntary manslaughter, you could be imprisoned for up to 10 years. If the victim was under the age of 16, this increases to 15 years. If you are charged with voluntary manslaughter, you may face 15 years of imprisonment—20 years if the victim was under 16 years old.
- Felony charge: Once you get out of prison, the manslaughter conviction will remain on your criminal record as a felony. This charge follows you for years, making it difficult to find work, obtain housing, and enjoy other freedoms you take for granted.
Criminal Defense Strategies for Manslaughter Charges
Unique circumstances surround every manslaughter case, requiring careful assessment from a legal team to formulate the best possible defense. Rest assured that when you work with Joseph L. Jordan, Attorney at Law, we’ll defend you with unwavering commitment. Here’s what our services entail:
- Conduct a thorough investigation.
- Review the prosecution’s evidence against you and find new evidence that supports your narrative.
- Cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses and identify witnesses of our own who can vouch for your character.
- Work to reduce the charges before ever stepping foot in a courtroom.
- Craft a viable defense to increase the chance of acquittal, dismissal, or at least a lesser sentence.
Our legal team can employ many defense strategies to clear your name and save your reputation. Perhaps you acted out of self-defense or under the orders of a superior officer. You might have a mental health condition or head injury that clouded your judgment. Or maybe you were in the wrong place at the wrong time and are, in fact, innocent of all charges.
Defend Yourself Against an Article 119 Charge
Joseph L. Jordan, Attorney at Law is dedicated to defending your rights and freedoms during your court martial. We are military law experts with decades of experience helping the accused protect their careers and livelihoods. Our team will aggressively and skillfully pursue the most favorable outcome possible in your case, including potential acquittal or dismissal.