What to Know About Fraudulent Enlistment

Deliberately falsifying information on a military service application can result in severe penalties, including a fraudulent enlistment charge under Article 83 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The first purpose of Article 83 is to prevent people from entering the armed forces without the proper qualifications. Then, it aims to ensure service members can’t quit without ample, justifiable, and valid reasons. Learn more about this section of the UCMJ and how it could affect you if a military judge convicts you of fraudulent enlistment, appointment, or separation.

What is Article 83?

A military applicant is guilty of fraudulent enlistment or appointment under Article 83 if they knowingly misrepresent or deliberately conceal information that could impact their eligibility to serve in the armed forces. An active service member is guilty of fraudulent separation if they aim to leave the military by knowingly misrepresenting or deliberately concealing their eligibility.

In other words, if the military had known the truth, the applicant would have been barred from service or separation, or the service branch would have needed to waive the disqualification.

Article 83 applies to false representations of any disqualifying factor for enlistment or separation, whether or not the applicant knows the truth would affect their eligibility. It is sufficient that the applicant knows their statements are untruthful, whether by commission or omission.

Elements of Article 83

For a guilty verdict to occur, a military prosecutor must prove that the following elements of Article 83 are true beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The accused was enlisted or appointed in an armed force.
  • The accused knowingly misrepresented or deliberately concealed a certain material fact regarding their qualification for enlistment or appointment.
  • The accused’s enlistment or appointment was obtained or procured by that knowingly false representation or deliberate concealment.
  • Under this enlistment or appointment, the accused received pay, allowances, or both.

Maximum Punishments for Committing Fraudulent Enlistment, Appointment, or Separation

The UCMJ imposes these maximum penalties for Article 83 violations:

  • Forfeiture of all pay and allowances
  • Dishonorable discharge
  • Two years of confinement

Such severe penalties are in place to dissuade applicants from stating anything but the truth on their applications. While each punishment is significant, a dishonorable discharge has the most lasting impact. This is the most severe form of punitive discharge reserved for “the highest of offenses.” It stains what may have otherwise been honorable military service, resulting in the denial of veteran’s benefits and employment opportunities available to service members who receive an honorable discharge.

Examples of Article 83 Violations

Instances of conduct that comprise an Article 83 violation include:

  • Enlisting under the age of 17
  • Concealing a disqualifying criminal background, medical defect, or drug use
  • Misrepresenting the legal custody of children
  • Enlisting for a particular option but no longer being eligible for that enlistment option

United States v. Watson

In the 2011 case of United States v. Watson, Private Alexander Watson deliberately concealed his prior inpatient psychiatric treatment following a suicide attempt at age 13. The Marine Corps’ recruiting standards bar applicants with a history of psychiatric hospitalization from enlisting unless they are granted a waiver. So when Watson’s misrepresentation came to light during an investigation of other offenses he had committed, he was charged with an Article 83 violation.

Watson was convicted in a general court-martial of fraudulent enlistment and several other crimes, including absence without leave, communicating a threat, possessing a weapon with intent to harm, and possession of child pornography. He was sentenced to 42 months of confinement, reduction to E-1, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and a bad-conduct discharge.

United States v. Holbrook

In the 2008 case of United States v. Holbrook, Seaman Recruit Tom Holbrook lied on his Coast Guard application, saying he had “experimented with marijuana, but no other drugs.” In truth, he frequently used marijuana and methamphetamines and had spent two months in drug rehab for meth addiction. Before the military uncovered his false statement, Holbrook became an enlisted service member and received pay and allowances, knowing he misrepresented the extent of his pre-service drug use.

Holbrook was convicted in a special court-martial of fraudulent enlistment and several other crimes, including damage to military property, reckless driving, marijuana and cocaine use, and leaving the scene of an accident. He was sentenced to 11 months of confinement, reduction to E-1, and a bad-conduct discharge.

Defend Yourself from Article 83 Allegations

Honesty is the best policy when applying for military service or requesting separation. Be sure to seek legal advice if you’re worried about how to complete your application or whether disclosing certain information could impact your eligibility. And if you have been accused of fraudulent enlistment, appointment, or separation, reach out to Joseph L. Jordan, Attorney at Law.

Mr. Jordan is an experienced military defense lawyer with a specialty in defending UCMJ violations. He is passionate about seeking justice for Soldiers, Sailors, Coast Guardsmen, Airmen, and Marines stationed worldwide. To speak directly with Mr. Jordan about your case, please call us toll-free at 800-580-8034 or 254-221-6411.

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