Article 103: Captured or Abandoned Property
Any service member who fails to give notice of and turn over captured and abandoned property in their possession to the United States Government, OR any service member caught buying, selling or trading in captured or abandoned property, will be subject to punishment under Article 103 of the UCMJ.
Many service members aren’t certain of what they’re up against when charges are initially brought against them. Here’s what we can tell you for sure:
- You could spend the next few years in prison for taking something as simple as a memento from a deployment.
- You will be branded a thief of U.S. Government property. A dishonorable discharge forces you to hide your military service from acquaintances and prospective employers alike.
- The shame of a guilty verdict will stun friends and family and steep fines could leave you in debt for years.
Bilecki & Tipon has what it takes to exonerate you completely of any wrongdoing. You owe it to yourself and those you love to fight back against exaggerated government charges.
What Is Article 103 of the UCMJ?
Every one of the list of UCMJ articles requires prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt a handful of critical assumptions—known as elements—to convict you of a crime. Four criminal offenses are described in Article 103, each with its own unique set of elements:
(1) Failing to secure public property taken from the enemy
- (a) That certain public property was taken from the enemy;
- (b) That this property was of a certain value; and
- (c) That the accused failed to do what was reasonable under the circumstances to secure this property for the service of the United States.
(2) Failing to report and turn over captured or abandoned property
- (a) That certain captured or abandoned public or private property came into the possession, custody, or control of the accused;
- (b) That this property was of a certain value; and
- (c) That the accused failed to give notice of its receipt and failed to turn over to the proper authority, without delay, the captured or abandoned public or private property.
(3) Dealing in captured or abandoned property
- (a) That the accused bought, sold, traded, or otherwise dealt in or disposed of certain public or private captured or abandoned property;
- (b) That this property was of a certain value;
- (c) That by so doing the accused received or expected some profit, benefit, or advantage to the accused or to a certain person or persons connected directly or indirectly with the accused.
(4) Looting or pillaging
- (a) That the accused engaged in looting, pillaging, or looting and pillaging by unlawfully seizing or appropriating certain public or private property;
- (b) That this property was located in enemy or occupied territory, or that it was on board a seized or captured vessel; and
- (c) That the property was left behind or owned by an enemy state or inhabitant of that state
Summary of the Elements of Article 103: The offenses under Article 103 consider all the various means by which a service member may acquire enemy property—both privately and publicly owned—and appropriate it for one’s individual benefit. This type of property is often called a “war trophy.” As long as the property has some meaningful value upon its capture, it immediately becomes the property of the U.S. government. Therefore, any attempt by a service member to keep enemy property is considered theft of U.S. Government property.
Military Defense Attorney for Article 103 of the UCMJ: Strategies and Tactics
Article 103 defines four unique criminal offenses, so the first step of any defense strategy is to narrow down the scope of the article and discover exactly what the prosecution is charging you with. Bilecki & Tipon will then further define your case by asking a few critical questions:
- If the service member allegedly failed to secure property: Was the property confirmed as public property? Has its value been properly assessed by a third party? Did circumstances make it difficult or impossible to secure the property for the United States?
- If the service member allegedly failed to report and turn over captured property: Were you aware of the value of the property at the time it was taken? Did you make an effort to turn over this property to the U.S. government?
- If the service member allegedly was caught dealing in captured or abandoned property: Were you aware at the time that the property was taken from the enemy? How was the property acquired in the first place? Has the value of the property been assessed by a third party?
- If the service member allegedly looted or pillaged enemy territory: Does the government have witnesses to prove that this is how the property was acquired? Was the value of the looted goods high enough to warrant charges under article 103? Did any other service members participate in the alleged looting and pillaging?
A strong defense strategy could lead to your full acquittal. Contact Bilecki & Tipon today and let us review your case.
Experienced Military Defense Lawyers for Article 103 Charges
Your liberties are on the line. Will you trust just any lawyer to protect them in court? Bilecki & Tipon has decades of experience as military criminal defense lawyers defending service members like you from abusive government overreach. We secure the best possible outcome for our clients every single time.
Bilecki & Tipon will help you fight back against charges under Article 103: Captured or Abandoned Property
Frequently Asked QuestionsAbout Article 103
What Is the Maximum Possible Punishment for Article 103: Captured or Abandoned Property?
The first three offenses under Article 103 take into account the value of the stolen property before suggesting proper punishment. Therefore, the maximum charges for these offenses include:
For a property of a value more than $500 OR any firearm or explosive:
- Reduction to E-1
- Forfeiture of all pay and allowances
- Confinement for 5 years
- Dishonorable discharge
Punishment for looting and pillaging could incur even harsher punishment depending on the circumstances and value of the property. According to the Manual for Court Martial, any punishment other than death may be considered. A maximum sentence, therefore, could be confinement for 20 years.
What Are the Lesser Included Offenses under Article 103?
A lesser included offense may be considered when mitigating factors limit the scope of the original crime. The lesser included offenses under Article 103 include:
- Article 80: Attempts