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UCMJ Article 84: Breach Of Medical Quarantine

At Bilecki Law Group, we defend service members against charges of breaching medical quarantine under Article 84 of the UCMJ. We believe there is always more to the story and you have to fight the prosecution to get your side properly represented.

What is Article 84 Of The UCMJ?

A breach of medical quarantine under Article 84 of the UCMJ takes place when a service member was ordered into medical quarantine by a person authorized to order medical quarantine and the accused knew of the medical quarantine and the limits thereof. Then, the service member went beyond the limits of the medical quarantine before being released by the proper authority. There exists an aggravating factor if the quarantine was imposed in reference to a quarantinable communicable disease.

Now, prior to 2020, it may have been possible for Article 84 to rest among the more obscure charges of the UCMJ. However, thanks to COVID-19, Article 84 has been placed front and center within the military justice system. Specifically, in that COVID-19 is classified as a communicable disease and as such, the aggravating factor that carries a harsher penalty is instantly applicable.

The UCMJ goes on to define “ordered into medical quarantine” as when the accused, for medical reasons, was ordered by a person with authority to remain within certain specified limits until released by proper authority. Putting a person “on quarters” or otherwise excusing a person from duty because of illness does not of itself constitute a medical quarantine.

What Must Be Proved To Convict Under Article 84?

In order for you to be convicted under Article 84 of the UCMJ, the prosecution must prove 4 essential elements and one more if the aggravating factor is applied. They might seem fairly straight forward, but a good court martial lawyer can make the prosecution work overtime to prove each element. Each element is as follows:

A Person ordered the accused into medical quarantine – They must prove that someone gave the order and that there was no assumption in place. Remember, putting a person “on quarters” or excusing them from duty due to illness is not a specific order to quarantine.

The Person who gave the order was authorized to do so – For an order of medical quarantine to be applicable, the person who gave the order must have been authorized to give such an order.

That the accused knew of the medical quarantine and the limits thereof –  The prosecution must prove that the accused knew of the order and specifically the limits. Any ambiguity as to the limits of the quarantine opens up the opportunity to put up a staunch fight.

That the accused went beyond the limits of the medical quarantine before being released by the proper authority – This is perhaps the most important element in the prosecution must prove that the accused exceeded the limits. That means they need proof that the accused was not only where they should be, but that they were outside those very limits.

That the quarantine was in response to a quarantinable communicable disease –  This one is fairly cut and dry as communicable disease is defined by the science and as such, that would include COVID-19. COVID-19 has been responsible for the largest share of quarantines in recent years.

Why Should I Fight If I Broke Quarantine Under Article 84?

Now, you might be thinking why do you need to fight charges under Article 84 if you did indeed break quarantine. Why not take your punishment and move on? Well, the reason is that the military justice system exists for the sole purpose of maintaining military order. For it to do so, they need to make an example out of someone and if you don’t put up a fight they will make that example out of you. They will roll over you for no other reason than to scare someone else.

This means that without warning, you could face a max punishment case just to make that example. Max punishment for a conviction under Article 84 is a Bad Conduct Discharge, ⅔ pay for six months, six months confinement and a reduction in rank to E-1. If a quarantinable communicable disease is involved, that’s a Dishonorable Discharge, total forfeiture of pay and allowances, 1 year confinement and a reduction in rank to E-1. In either case, this is likely the end of your military career and a stain on your permanent record.

The truth of the matter is that you just don’t know if you are going to be the one they pick to make an example out of. You must be ready to fight so that you can present yourself a harder target. Let them move on and make an example out of the next guy. Don’t give up your career, benefits or retirement for an arbitrary prosecution under Article 84.

How Can We Win Against Charges Of Breach of Medical Quarantine?

As we mentioned, the military justice system needs its sacrificial “examples” to scare everyone else into submission. They rely on that fear to get good service members to admit guilt and beg for mercy. The last thing the military justice system wants is a fight and so, that’s exactly what we give them. The prosecution will work overtime to prove that all the proper quarantine protocols were followed, but experience lets us know better.

There is a reasonable chance that it may be unclear if the person who ordered the quarantine had the authority to do so. Moreover, the prosecution will try to make it seem like everyone else followed the quarantine protocols perfectly and you were the one rogue agent. The reality is that it likely was disregarded by many and then the command freaked out and picked you out of the bunch to prosecute.

Finally, we are going to show the sum of your career and fight the prosecution’s attempt to label you as the worst thing to ever put on the uniform. If you fought it out in the streets of Iraq or the valleys of Afghanistan, they don’t get to ruin your career because you exceeded the limits of quarantine. We’re going to fight for the best possible result and we are going to fight to win. It might seem like a minor charge, but COVID-19 has placed Article 84 into the daily conversation. Don’t let it ruin your career. Reach out to us for a free case evaluation and let’s see what you are facing and let’s find a way to fight and win.

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Timothy James Bilecki

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