Breaking Down Article 134 – Kidnapping
July 8, 2021
Does the military suspect you of seizing and confining someone against their will? Perhaps law enforcement has even insinuated that they have all the evidence they need to put you behind bars.
If you’re being accused of kidnapping under Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), you need expert legal representation to help you fight back. Learn more about the charges against you and how Joseph L. Jordan, Attorney at Law can defend your rights.
Elements of Article 134
Article 134 is a catch-all for many offenses that don’t fit into other articles of the UCMJ, including kidnapping. As with all other punitive articles, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of particular elements of the crime for a conviction to occur. In the case of kidnapping, prosecutors must demonstrate that the following four elements occurred:
- The accused confined, seized, decoyed, carried away, or inveigled a certain individual. Offering candy to a child so they get into a vehicle is an example of decoying. Then, falsely promising to take someone to a particular destination is an example of inveigling.
- The accused held the individual against their will.
- The accused committed these acts willfully and wrongfully. This means they did so without excuse or justification, as defined by the UCMJ. For instance, if a parent confines their child as punishment for acting out, this is not a wrongful act and is therefore not considered kidnapping.
- The circumstances surrounding the incident were adverse to the discipline and good order in the armed forces, or the nature of the act brought discredit upon the armed forces.
Note that the intent behind the kidnapping has no bearing on whether the accused is convicted or not. However, motives could lead to aggravating factors and additional charges.
Maximum Punishments for Article 134 – Kidnapping
A member of the armed forces who is convicted of kidnapping under Article 134 faces the following maximum sentences:
- Reduction to the pay grade of E-1
- Forfeiture of all pay and allowances
- Dishonorable discharge
- Life imprisonment without parole
Keep in mind that these punishments don’t include other charges the accused may face. Being convicted of multiple offenses could significantly increase the sentence.
Example of a Military Kidnapping Case
When you think of a classic kidnapping scenario, you might picture someone being gagged, bound, and locked in a room. However, a service member can be prosecuted for kidnapping in other situations as well. Consider this recent example:
A trainee at Fort Jackson was arrested in May for allegedly hijacking a school bus full of children. Armed with a rifle and dressed in physical training gear, the trainee allegedly boarded a school bus with a driver and 18 students on board. The bus was headed to Forest Lake Elementary in Columbia, South Carolina, near the basic training base the suspect had fled at about 7:00 that morning. The trainee told the bus driver he didn’t want to hurt anyone, but he needed a ride to the next town.
Under the trainee’s orders, the bus driver began driving with everyone still on board. The kids kept asking the suspect if he was going to hurt them or the driver. In frustration, the trainee told the bus driver to stop and allowed the children and driver to exit the vehicle. The trainee then began driving the bus, but he had trouble controlling it, so he eventually fled on foot, leaving the rifle on the bus.
Police soon caught up with the suspect, and he was “arrested without incident.” According to the Richland County Sheriff, the suspect is now charged with multiple counts of kidnapping “and whatever charges we can put on him.” The Army provided no additional details about the trainee or the events leading up to the hour-long bus hijacking.
Defending Yourself Against Kidnapping Charges
There is no such thing as a clear-cut kidnapping case. The decision to convict or not relies on examining the evidence and listening to witness testimonies. The alleged victim’s account must hold up in court as being completely honest and forthcoming. Was the victim harmed? Were they forcibly taken, or did they go with the accused willingly? If so, was this truly a case of kidnapping?
Military prosecutors may think they have an open-and-shut case against you, but they don’t expect you to hire a defense attorney who can attack their accusations from every angle. One slip up on their end, one exaggeration in a key witness’s story, and their whole argument falls apart.
Joseph L. Jordan, Attorney at Law has been serving members of the armed forces for years. Before becoming a military attorney, he spent a decade in the Army and served as an Officer and Judge Advocate. Thanks to his aggressive, uncompromising approach, Mr. Jordan has garnered worldwide success defending soldiers against a wide range of allegations.
Our military defense lawyer knows what it takes to fight back against kidnapping charges! If you need professional assistance defending yourself against false or inflated claims, please call us toll free at 800-580-8034 or 254-221-6411 to speak directly with Joseph L. Jordan about your case.