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UCMJ Article 133: Conduct Unbecoming An Officer And Gentleman

At Bilecki Law Group, we defend service members against charges of conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman under Article 133 of the UCMJ. You worked hard to gain your commission and we’re not going to let it all end in disgrace.

What is Article 133 Of The UCMJ?

Article 133 of the UCMJ governs the charge of conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman. Gentleman includes both male and female commissioned officers, cadets, and midshipmen. There are certain moral attributes common to the ideal officer and the perfect gentleman, a lack of which is indicated by acts of dishonesty, unfair dealing, indecency, indecorum, lawlessness, injustice, or cruelty.

Oftentimes, an Article 133 charge is thrown on top of some other violations of the UCMJ when committed by an officer. It’s a sort of one final, “screw you buddy”, that the military justice system can deal out. Other times, Article 133 can be used as a singular “screw you buddy” because they can’t prove any other charge against you.

Article 133 is ambiguous in nature and as such, when wielded by a fickle and capricious command structure, it’s a tool of unjust action against an officer. If you’ve gotten to the point that your command is already charging you with Article 133, you’ve pissed off someone in some higher office somewhere. Like it or not, you’re now going to have to fight for your reputation and your career.

What Does Conduct Unbecoming An Officer And Gentleman Mean?

To be charged with conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman under Article 133, the prosecution only needs to prove two elements and those are:

(1) That (state the time and place alleged), the accused (did) (omitted to do) a certain act(s), to wit: (state the alleged act or omission); and
(2) That, under the circumstances, the accused’s conduct was unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.
The UCMJ then goes to clarify that “conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman means action or behavior in an official capacity which, in dishonoring or disgracing the person as an officer, seriously compromises the officer’s character as a gentleman, or action or behavior in an unofficial or private capacity which, in dishonoring or disgracing the officer personally, seriously compromises the person’s standing as an officer.

Now, we’ve seen some right and just charges under Article 133 in our day. Young Lieutenant shows up drunk in the barracks and starts berating his Soldiers for no reason. A Company Commander keeping the Lance Corporal around after hours for some “counseling.” There is a right time and place to use Article 133.

Then, we’ve heard some charges under Article 133 and think to ourselves, that sounds like one hell of a time. What the military justice system fails to often understand is that both officer and gentleman presuppose that you are a human imbued with human nature. When many people think of officers, they think of the gray-haired General. When in reality, the largest number of officers are young kids just a year two removed from college and only a decade past puberty. Officers are humans who make mistakes and such mistakes shouldn’t be the end of one’s career.

Good Officers Are Not Always Gentlemen

At some point, we have to get past this romantic notion that all officers are Southern Gentlemen named Beauregard who are escorting Lady Antebellum to the winter ball. War is a nasty business and it requires men and women who like to lead and fight. Sometimes, those very same people like drink and, if we might be so bold as to presume, they like to get rowdy

Marine legend and Medal of Honor recipient Pappy Boyington had an entire TV series made out of his conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman. Something tells us that Marine General Lewis “Chesty” Puller knew how to throw off his gentlemanly nature from time to time.

As far as we are concerned, if you’re an officer who can successfully navigate a platoon through a land navigation course, you ought to get at least one weekend a month to do anything ungentlemanly you wish. The UCMJ itself says that not everyone is or can be expected to meet unrealistically high moral standards. It may be that your command is just pissed at your fast rise and success and they are just trying to cull rising stars before they become a threat. If that sounds like you, then there is no reason you should take this charge laying down.

UCMJ: Strategies and Tactics

A military officer may be convicted under Article 133 for any number of offenses. Making false official statements, failing to pay off a debt, cheating on an exam or using insulting language against another officer could all lead to accusations of conduct unbecoming an officer.   To prepare for your case, we’ll perform a full investigation into the events that occurred both during and leading up to the alleged misconduct. Some of the avenues we may consider include:

Did the officer’s actions actually compromise his or her character or the military’s honor? What was the specific conduct by the officer that the military says is criminal? Is that type of behavior typically considered criminal? What were the officer’s motivations and justifications for the alleged conduct? Did the alleged conduct even actually occur?

Can we acquit the service member of other offenses which provoked allegations of conduct unbecoming an officer? You may have been accused of drunk and disorderly conduct and, by extension, a charge under Article 133 soon followed. But by attacking your drunk and disorderly charge directly and undermining the government’s evidence in that offense, it makes it much more difficult for prosecutors to accuse you of conduct unbecoming an officer.

Facing an Allegation?
Contact Bilecki Law Group

Timothy James Bilecki

Military law attorney

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How To Fight Back And Win Against Article 133 UCMJ Charges?

Because the conduct described under Article 133 is remarkably ambiguous, it is often difficult to defend when a command wants to charge you. However, you do have a fighting chance if you choose to fight. That is to call the charge BS from the start and flight for your reputation.

It may be that you were drunk, but you had a reasonable expectation that you wouldn’t be around anyone. It is possible that you did have an affair and word got out, but you’re only getting charged because the affair was with the Battalion Commander’s wife.

The point is that it doesn’t matter what they are trying to throw at you. If they are charging you, then they are coming to take everything from you. You’re going to have to fight like hell if you hope for your career to survive. We will need good men and women to fill the officer ranks because when the fight for this nation is on, none of us will care how drunk you got at the Marine Corps Ball.

If you are a tactically sound leader facing a bogus charge under Article 133, reach out to us and get us into this fight. We’ll shoot you straight on exactly what you are facing and give you a free defense strategy session that you can use, even if you choose not to retain us. You’re a good officer and there is a right and just time to bring about Article 133 charges. This is not one of them. This is where you stand up and fight for your career and your reputation. Give us a call and get us into that fight.

Bilecki Law Group will help you fight back against charges under Article 133: Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and Gentleman

UCMJ Article 87b

Frequently Asked Questions About Article 133

For service members convicted of conduct unbecoming an officer, Article 133 suggests a maximum punishment which includes:

  • Forfeiture of all pay and allowances
  • Dismissal as a commissioned officer of the U.S. Military
  • Maximum confinement varies from 6 months to 1 year or more

In addition to Article 133, you may also face other charges which may increase the final sentence dramatically.  

No. You must be performing your duties in an official capacity to be charged under Article 133 of the UCMJ.

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