Fraternization – The military is not a democracy
How many times in basic training did your hear it said that the military is not a democracy? Military members are not permitted to freely associate with anyone they might choose. In fact, the military prohibits certain relationships that might have the “appearance of,” or actually create an atmosphere of unfairness, or disrupt good order and discipline in the armed forces. Fraternization is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) under Article 134, and is defined by the Manual For Courts-Martial (MCM).
According to the MCM, the “elements of proof” for the offense of fraternization are:
- That the accused was a commissioned or warrant officer;
- That the accused fraternized on terms of military equality with one or more certain enlisted member(s) in a certain manner;
- That the accused then knew the person(s) to be (an) enlisted member(s);
- That such fraternization violated the custom of the accused’s service that officers shall not fraternize with enlisted members on terms of military equality; and
- That, under the circumstances, the conduct of the accused was to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces or was of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.
Article 134 UCMJ – Improper Sexual Conduct
Military service members are often held to a higher ethical standard than people in civilian life. In the military, certain consensual sex acts that might not cause undue fallout in civilian life, are considered improper sexual conduct and could result in a court martial. In fact, under Article 134 of the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice), a military court has the discretion to punish any actions that bring discredit to the Armed Forces or could be considered disorderly conduct. That is very broad in scope and many a service member will face charges for all manner of interpersonal relationships that ones command might find troubling.
Article 134 UCMJ – Pertains only to conduct of Officers
Article 134 (UCMJ) establishes guidelines for the associations and behaviors of officers only. More specifically, Article 134 prohibits an “unprofessional relationship” between an officer and enlisted member. From the military’s point of view, fraternization is about setting appropriate and necessary boundaries. Inappropriate relationships between officers and enlisted members would tend to compromise discipline, cause jealousies and claims of unfairness among enlisted members, and generally discredit the military. Article 134 insists that officers are to have a elevated responsibility to avoid any relationship that would call into question, suspicion, or doubt the integrity of the officer corps.
Conduct that often results in officers being charged under Article 134 include, but are not limited to such relationships and activities with enlisted personnel:
- Flirting or romantic relationships
- Sexual relationships
- Engaging in business
- Lending money
- Borrowing money
- Loaning / borrowing cars, property, etc.
- Sharing living quarters
Article 92 UCMJ – Unprofessional Relationships
Note: Article 92 covers “unprofessional” relationships” which are treated very similarly to fraternization and service members must take precautions to steer clear of such relationships and actions that similarly compromise military authority or create an appearance of impropriety. Unlike Article 134, Article 92 addressing “Unprofessional Relationships” applies to BOTH officers and enlisted personnel and would apply to relationships on or off duty, between officers, between enlisted personnel, or between officers and enlisted personnel, or even between any military member and civilian employees. Examples of situations where charges have been drafted include, but are not limited to:
- Flirting, romantic, or sexual communications (text messages, email, etc.)
- Flirting or romantic relationships
- Sexual or romantic relations
- Shared transportation
- Shared vacations
- Shared living accommodations
- Playing sports off-duty
- Visiting nightclubs or bars off-duty
Facing allegations of Fraternization or Inappropriate Relationship – Make that Call…
If you are faced with allegations of fraternization or having engaged in an inappropriate relationships, contact Gary S. Barthel, Lt. Col. USMC (Ret.) at (760) 941-3665 for a confidential consultation regarding your situation. Remember. You have a right to remain silent and you have a right to speak with any private military attorney you choose – for advice or to assist in your defense, should it come to that. Call Mr. Barthel for that free consultation before you say anything to anyone or make any career-affecting decisions.