UCMJ Article 109: Waste, Spoilage, or Destruction of Non-U.S. Property

A service member of the United States Armed Forces who either willfully or recklessly wastes, spoils, or destroys property that is not owned by the U.S. Military will be judged in accordance with the law under Article 109 of the UCMJ. Should you be found guilty under Article 109, both your liberties and future could be stolen from you in an instant:

  • Confinement for up to 5 years is a distinct possibility and recovering afterward will be difficult for both you and your family and friends.
  • A dishonorable discharge will force you to hide your military past from future acquaintances and employers.
  • The forfeiture of all pay and allowances—including your hard-earned pension and healthcare—will be taken from you the moment you are found guilty

See also: Article 109a: Mail: Taking, Opening, Secreting, Destroying, Or Stealing.

What Is Article 109 of the UCMJ?

  1. Wasting or spoiling of non-military property
    1. That the accused willfully or recklessly wasted or spoiled certain real property in a certain manner;
    2. That the property was that of another person; and
    3. That the property was of a certain value
  2.  Destroying or damaging non-military property
    1. That the accused willfully and wrongfully destroyed or damaged certain personal property in a certain manner;
    2. That the property was that of another person; and
    3. That the property was of a certain value or the damage was of a certain amount

Summary of the Elements of Article 109

Article 109 makes a distinction between damaged non-U.S. property and wasted non-U.S. property. A service member may be charged with both. In order to secure a conviction, the government must prove you intentionally wasted or destroyed the property of another person or state, and that the property had some value attached to it. 

Every single article of the U.C.M.J. requires prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt a handful of critical assumptions—known as elements—to convict you of a crime. Article 109 considers two criminal offenses, each with its own set of elements that must be proven in court.

Military Defense Attorney for Article 109

The value of the wasted or damaged property and the punishment a service member receives are directly correlated. Expect military prosecutors to inflate the extent of the damage or waste as much as possible.

Bilecki & Tipon is expecting this, and we’ll prepare our own investigation into the nature and extent of the damages. We’ll begin by considering a few essential questions to prepare your Article 109 case:

  • How did the property come to be damaged or wasted in the first place? Were you ordered to do so by a commanding officer in the line of duty? Was there confusion over the ownership of the property (was it assumed to be enemy property?) Mitigating circumstances may have played a role in the destruction or waste. If they exist, Bilecki & Tipon will find them.
  • Was the damage to or spoiling of the property purposeful or accidental? Were you afforded enough time to properly store or handle the property? Was the destruction of property to ensure the enemy did not acquire it? The entire trial may come down to which narrative most convincingly defines your “true” intentions.
  • Who has conducted the review of the damaged or spoiled property? Has a third party verified its value? The cost of the damages will matter a great deal to your punishment. By performing a review of the cost of those damages, we may be able to secure more favorable sentencing.

We understand what it takes to win Article 109 cases. Rather than place your freedoms in harm’s way, contact Bilecki & Tipon TODAY and secure the best possible outcome in your case

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Experienced Military Defense Lawyers for Article 109 Charges

If you’re accused of a crime under Article 109 of the UCMJ, you need military defense attorneys with a record of winning court-martial cases. The attorneys at Bilecki & Tipon has been fighting for service members for decades and our case history is proof that we go to court to win, not to plead our clients guilty.

Bilecki & Tipon will help you fight back against charges under Article 109: Waste, Spoilage, or Destruction of Non-U.S. Property

Frequently Asked Questions About Article 109

What Is the Maximum Possible Punishment for Article 109: Waste, Spoilage, or Destruction of Non-U.S. Property?

The maximum punishment under article 109 depends on the extent of the damages or waste to the property in question. According to the Manual for Court Martial:

Waste or damage of $500 or less:

  • Reduction to E-1
  • Forfeiture of all pay and allowances
  • Confinement for 1 year
  • Bad-conduct discharge

Waste or damage exceeding $500:

  • Reduction to E-1
  • Forfeiture of all pay and allowances
  • Confinement for 5 years
  • Dishonorable discharge

What Does the Military Consider the “Waste” and “Spoil” of Property?

The Manual for Court Martial defines a few examples of waste or spoliation, including “burning down buildings, burning piers, tearing down fences, or cutting down trees.” In some cases, the waste of property and the destruction of property may be very similar. Any property that is so damaged—whether from waste, spoliation or destruction—to be found useless for its intended purpose may incur charges of both destroying and wasting non-U.S. military property.

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