You’re Unbecoming

How about a new law? Sure. Why not?

Here’s the text of the law:

Any citizen of the United States who is convicted of conduct unbecoming a citizen of the United States shall be punished as a court may direct.

Simple. Easy. But, how about the elements? I got those, too.

1. That the accused did or omitted to do certain acts; and

2. That, under the circumstances, these acts or omissions constituted conduct unbecoming a citizen of the United States.

Well, Mister-Smarty-Pants-Law-Writer-Guy, what if the accused is guilty of other offenses, like larceny?

Good news, everyone. You can be found guilty of the larceny and guilty of my new crime, just because of the larceny. Guilty of one means guilty of both. No unreasonable multiplication or charges. No muss. No fuss. How’s that for keeping it real?

Maximum punishment, you say? Well, just to show you that I’m not a hard-hearted guy, let’s keep it at a simple 1 year of confinement.

I feel extremely proud of my newfound law-writing abilities. Only, I really can’t take credit for it.

From the “laws that have been used for decades department,” I give you Article 133 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which states:

Any commissioned officer, cadet, or midshipman who is convicted of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.



9 thoughts on “You’re Unbecoming

  1. Being a “becoming” citizen is far and away different from being a “becoming” officer.

    In the same vein though, when I taught UCMJ to the trainees at Leonard Wood, one of my favorite points was, “Now that we’ve talked about all the standard crimes (rape, assault, larceny, etc.), you may be saying to yourself ‘As a criminal mastermind, I find this amusing. I’ve come up with some offenses he hasn’t listed.’ Well, I’ve got something for you – Article 134.”

    • Personally, my favorite part of it is how it can be added to pretty-much any other UCMJ offense as a sort of “executive surcharge.”

      • The price we pay for wearing shiny metal and serving by commission rather than by contract I suppose.

      • Gotcha. Though, I don’t see the separation between those with commissions and those without as distinct as it was when the UCMJ was originally conceived.

        Another thought, somewhat related: the other officer-only law is Article 134 (Fraternization). Now, that law has, essentially, been spread to all ranks by using regulations that contain punitive provisions. So, knowing that, how about punitive regulation regarding, say, a violation of Army Values?

      • Isn’t that a general 134 offense? So long as it is service discrediting or PGOD. “In that you were, at or near, on or about this date, wrongfully disloyal, to wit: talking about your PL’s body odor behind his back, such conduct being prejudicial to good order and discipline.”

      • Yes. True, but nobody every uses the General Article in the same fashion as Conduct Unbecoming. You never see someone charged with Larceny and Article 134 (General) b/c of the lack of integrity involved with the same.

        Contrast this with an officer who commits larceny, who would almost certainly be charged with an Art. 133 offense in addition to the larceny.

      • Again that goes back to my assertion that it applies by virtue of the special position officers occupy. Though back in the day it was conduct seriously offensive to “law, justice, morality or decorum” it’s been reduced to morally unbefitting and unworthy conduct.

        This is why my favorite line in any Army Regulation comes from para. 4-1, of AR 600-8-24, “An officer is permitted to serve in the Army because of the special trust and confidence the President and the nation have placed in the officer’s patriotism, valor, fidelity, and competence. An officer is expected to display responsibility commensurate to this special trust and confidence and to act with the highest integrity at all times.”

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