UCMJ Article 108: US Military Property Offenses

At Bilecki Law Group, we defend service members from charges related to military property under article 108 of the UCMJ. When it comes to property losses, the military justice system WILL ruin someone’s life, but it doesn’t have to be yours.

What Is Article 108 Of The UCMJ?

Article 108 of the UCMJ covers most property offenses within the United States Military. This may include the selling, wrongfully disposing, damaging, destroying, losing, failing to secure, or failing to report and dealing of captured property.

What is most important for you to understand is that the military will almost always hold someone accountable for missing gear or property and it rarely matters whether that is the person actually responsible. Someone has to pay and if you don’t put up a fight, that might be you. 

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What Military Property Charges Reside Under Article 108?

Property charges are one of the more common charges that take place under the UCMJ as the military has a misplaced affection for its own property. From the very first day of basic training, they’ll have a new recruit box up every ounce of private property and issue them, right down to their tighty whitey underwear, the property they want them to possess. Should any tragedy befall said property, there is a good chance they’ll be looking to punish someone. 

 

The UCMJ places a myriad of charges under Article 108 and as such, it is best to enumerate each one exactly as it is written. We’ll also show you the max punishments associated with each charge so that you understand what might be waiting for you at the end of an uncontested guilty plea. 

The charges are as follows:

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Selling Or Disposing Of Military Property – For a service member to be found guilty, the prosecution must satisfy the following four elements:

(1) That (state the time and place alleged), the accused (a) sold (state the property alleged) (, a firearm,) (, an explosive,) to (state the person/entity alleged).

(b) Disposed of (state the property alleged) (, a firearm,) (, an explosive,) by (state the alleged manner of disposal).

(2) That the (sale) (disposition) was without proper authority.

(3) That the property was military property of the United States. 

(4) That the property was of a value of $ __________ (or less).

Maximum Punishment: Value of $1,000 or less – Bad conduct discharge, total forfeiture of all pay and allowances, 1 year confinement and reduction in rank to E-1.

Value of more than $1,000 or any firearm or explosive comes with a dishonorable discharge, total forfeiture and pay of all allowances, 10 years confinement and reduction in rank to E-1. 

Damaging, Destroying, Or Losing Military Property – For a service member to be found guilty, the prosecution must satisfy the following four elements:

(1) That (state the time and place alleged), the accused, without proper authority, (damaged) (destroyed) (lost) (state the property alleged) (, a firearm,) (, an explosive,) (by (state the manner alleged))

(2) That the property was military property of the United States.

(3) That the (damage) (destruction) (loss) was (willfully caused) (the result of neglect) by the accused.

(4) That the (property was of a value of $__________) (damage amounted to $ __________).

Maximum Punishment for Willful damage, destruction, or loss: Less than $1,000 comes with a bad conduct discharge, total forfeiture and pay of all allowances, 1 year confinement and reduction in rank to E-1.

More than $1,000 or any firearm or explosive comes with a dishonorable discharge, total forfeiture and pay of all allowances, 10 years confinement and reduction in rank to E-1.

Maximum Punishment for neglect, damaging, destroying, or losing: Less than $1,000 comes with forfeiture of 2/3 pay for 6 months, 6 months confinement and reduction in rank to E-1.

 

More than $1,000 comes with a bad conduct discharge, total forfeiture of all pay and allowances, 1 year confinement and reduction in rank to E-1. 

Suffering Military Property To Be Lost, Damaged, Sold, or Wrongfully Disposed Of – For a service member to be found guilty, the prosecution must satisfy the following five elements:

(1) That (state the time and place alleged), (state the property alleged) (, a firearm,) (, an explosive,) was (lost) (damaged by __________) (destroyed by __________) (sold to __________) (wrongfully disposed of by __________).

(2) That the property was military property of the United States.

(3) That the (loss) (damage) (destruction) (sale) (wrongful disposition) was suffered by the accused, without proper authority, through an omission of duty by the accused;

(4) That the omission of duty was (willful) (negligent).

(5) That the (property was of a value of $__________) (damage amounted to $__________).

Maximum Punishment for suffering property to be damaged, lost, destroyed or wrongfully disposed of: $1,000 or less comes with a bad conduct discharge, total forfeiture of all pay and allowances, 1 year confinement and reduction in rank to E-1.

More than $1,000  or any firearm or explosive comes with a dishonorable discharge, total forfeiture of pay and all allowances, 10 years confinement and reduction of rank to E-1.

Maximum punishment for neglect and suffering property to be damaged, lost, destroyed, sold, or wrongfully disposed of: $1,000 or less comes with forfeiture of 2/3 pay for 6 months, 6 months confinement and reduction in rank to E-1.

 

More than $1,000 comes with a bad conduct discharge, total forfeiture of all pay and allowances, 1 year confinement and reduction in rank to E-1. 

Does Article 108 Of The UCMJ Cover Captured Enemy Property?

As we mentioned, the US military has a misplaced affection for their own property and this affection extends to property acquired, found, or surrendered by adversaries as well. Did you find a sweet AK in a house you just raided and thought you would add it to your own collection? Not if Article 108 has anything to say about it. You can and will be charged for bringing home “war trophies” if you are found out. Here are the subset of charges under Article 108 and their corresponding max punishments:

Failing To Secure Public Property Taken From The Enemy – For a service member to be found guilty, the prosecution must satisfy the following three elements:

(1) That certain public property, namely, (describe the property allegedly taken), [(a firearm) (an explosive)], was taken from the enemy.

(2) That (state the time and place alleged), the accused failed to do what was reasonable under the circumstances to secure this property for the service of the United States.

(3) That the property was of a value of $ __________ (or some lesser amount, in which case the finding should be in the lesser amount).

Maximum Punishment: $1,000 or less comes with a bad conduct discharge, total forfeiture and pay of all allowances, 6 months confinement and reduction in rank to E-1.

Over $1,000 or any firearm or explosive comes with a dishonorable discharge, total forfeiture of all pay and allowances, 5 years confinement and reduction in rank to E-1. 

Dealing In Captured Or Abandoned Property – For a service member to be found guilty, the prosecution must satisfy the following three elements:

(1) That (state the time and place alleged), the accused (bought) (sold) (traded) (dealt in) (disposed of) certain (public) (private) (captured) (abandoned) property, namely (describe the property alleged) [(a firearm) (an explosive)]. 

(2) That, by so doing, the accused (received) (expected) some (profit) (benefit) (advantage) to [(himself) (herself)] [(a) certain person(s) connected either directly or indirectly with (him) (her)], namely, (state the manner alleged).

(3) That the property was of a value of $ __________ (or some lesser amount, in which case the finding should be in the lesser amount).

Maximum Punishment: $1,000 or less comes with a bad conduct discharge, total forfeiture of all pay and allowances, 6 months confinement and reduction in rank to E-1.

Over $1,000 or any firearm or explosive comes with a dishonorable discharge, total forfeiture of all pay and allowances, 5 years confinement and reduction in rank to E-1. 

 

How To Fight And Beat Charges Under Article 108 Of The UCMJ

Once again, if gear comes up missing or destroyed and didn’t happen at the hands of a foreign enemy in combat, you can bet that the military justice system is coming for someone. That’s because the military justice system exists to preserve military order and discipline. For that to work, it requires that someone be made a public example in order to scare the rest of the ranks into compliance. 

 

Never mind that destroyed gear and “tactically acquired” gear runs straight through the heart of military history. Hell, one Marine during WW2 tactically acquired the ANM2 aircraft machine gun off of a crashed bomber, refitted it into a version he called the “Stinger”, and then earned the Medal Of Honor while firing that badboy at the cyclic rate on Iwo Jima.

Never mind that you get busted for losing a set of NVGs, but the supply sergeant could be running an entire ponzi scheme out of the back door. If you are the one that is caught and you don’t put up a fight, they’ll use you as their public “example” with the same effect. You have to put up a fight or your military career, retirement, and maybe even your freedom is over. They will roll over you without so much as acknowledging the sum of your career in pursuit of that example.

 

Fight Like Hell For What Matters Most

That’s how you win. You give the military justice system the last thing they really want and that is a fight. Namesake and founder Tim Bilecki spent years in the military justice system as a senior defense counsel for the Army and he can tell you firsthand what happens to those who lay down and hope for mercy. It’s not pretty and that’s why he puts together a defense so aggressive, it is almost a sin not to call it an offense.

You have to fight and you can’t allow the prosecution to smell weakness. They don’t want a fight and when they know they have one on their hands, they start looking for the offramp. Look, you might have made a terrible mistake and tried to bring back an AK or sword in your seabag. Sure, you lost your rifle, but was that because the 5-ton driver can’t drive for shit and it flew off the back. Whatever the case is, the answer is still the same. You must fight or get rolled over by the military justice system. 

 

 If you are facing investigation or court martial for charges under Article 108 of the UCMJ, reach out to us. At this point, a fight is coming your way whether you wanted one or not. Reach out to us and we’ll shoot you straight on exactly what you are facing. We’ll put together our own investigation and we will fight like hell for what matters most to you. Property is damaged, destroyed, and gone missing all the time in the military. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice everything because “this time” they wanted their example. Fight like hell and let them make an example out of the next guy. Give us a call and get us into that fight.

 

Don’t just plead guilty… Fight Back !

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