Proof lies on him who asserts, not on him who denies. The concept is that one is innocent until proven guilty. Regardless of what the law says about reasonable doubt, there is an unwritten presumption within the ranks of the military that if you are charged with sexual assault, then you are guilty. The stakes are your life! Your military counsel works for the same military that charged you. Consider that as you choose who represents you in your potentially life altering case.


Vessel handling and maneuvering is an essential part of naval duty. Seamen are trained on the laws and best practices of operating and behaving onboard a U.S Navy ship. To safeguard a vessel, the lives of those aboard the vessel, and support the strategic goals involving the vessel, the UCMJ has implemented Article 110 – Improper Hazarding of Vessel. A person subject to this chapter shall have:

(a) Wrongfully and willfully hazarded a vessel of the armed forces or allowed it to be hazarded

(b) Negligently hazarded a vessel of the armed forces or negligently allowed it to be hazarded.

The accused shall face court martial action and if convicted, be imposed with punitive action.


To be found guilty under this chapter, the following elements must be investigated and proved.

  • The vessel of the armed forces was hazarded/put in jeopardy in a certain manner
  • The accused wrongfully, willfully, or negligently caused the vessel to or permitted the vessel to be jeopardized, through certain acts or omissions


'Hazard' refers to putting the vehicle in danger of damage or loss. Actual loss or damage to the vehicle is not required. It is enough to show that the vessel was put in danger of damage or loss.

If the vessel has suffered damage or loss resulting from collision, stranding, after having been run upon a rock or shoal, or through any other cause, it is conclusive evidence of the vessel being hazarded. Stranding refers to running the vehicle aground. The vehicle should 'touch and stick' for it to be considered stranded. If the vessel 'touches and goes', it is not considered stranded. A shoal can be mud, sand, bar or gravel bank that makes the water shallow.

Under this chapter, "willfully' refers to the intentional act of the individual to cause the vessel to be hazarded. "Wrongfully" means the accused acted in contravention to the regulation, custom or lawful order. "Negligence" refers to failure on the part of the accused to take due care or exercise prudence in the line of duty. It also covers the omission to take prudent action that can be reasonably expected from a person in his circumstance. The actions are expected to be performed in accordance with the individual's responsibilities, in keeping with his rank or grade. In investigating this aspect, the judge will consider if the individual made an error in judgment that can be reasonably expected from a person in the same circumstances. The judge will also probe if the individual is culpable resulting from his failure to perform his duties imposed by his responsibilities.

The individual is said to allow or permit the vessel to be hazarded if he/she did not take any action despite knowledge of imminent danger to the vessel, even though he/she was not in direct control of the vehicle. Failing to report a radar target that is on a collision course with or perilously close to the vessel is one instance of willfully permitting the vessel to be hazarded.

The lesser included offense under this chapter is Article 80 Attempts.


The maximum punishment for wrongfully and willfully hazarding a vessel or permitting it to be hazarded includes death or any other punishment awarded by the court-martial. The punishment for negligently hazarding or allowing an armed forces vehicle to be hazarded includes dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and confinement for two years. The counsel of an experienced UCMJ lawyer can be invaluable in building a strong defense in the oft complex cases involving Article 110.


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Joseph L. Jordan travels around the globe to represent service members in military criminal defense matters.

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