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UCMJ Article 91: Assault, Disobedience, Or Contempt Towards A Warrant, Non Commissioned, Or Pretty Officer

At Bilecki Law Group, we defend service members from charges of assault or other insubordination towards a Warrant, Noncommissioned, or Petty Officer. We know there is more to your side of the story and we’ll make sure the full story is told. 

What Is Article 91 Of The UCMJ?

Article 91 of the UCMJ exists to provide good order and discipline with regards to behavior shown towards warrant, noncommissioned, and petty officers of the United States Armed Services. These insubordinate behaviors include assault, disobedience, content, and disrespect that would then bring about charges under Article 91.

While good order and discipline are indeed essential elements for our armed services, the broad application of Article 91 means good men and women in uniform can find themselves afoul of the UCMJ through little to no fault of their own.

If you have ever served in the United States military, you know what a good noncommissioned officer looks like for no other reason than the fact that they stick out amongst all the poor leadership that simultaneously exists in the ranks. It is often a result of this poor and insecure leadership that charges are brought up under Article 91 in the first place. 

You do not deserve to be treated like a common criminal for a single offense under Article 91. Bilecki Law Group can help you win back your freedom and your reputation.

What Can You Be Charged With Under Article 91?

Because Article 91 of the UCMJ mentioned vague behaviors such as contempt or disrespect along with more objective behaviors like assault or disobedience, it is best to simply list out the elements of each charge as taken directly from the UCMJ.

Assault on Warrant, Noncommissioned, Or Petty Officer

This charge is exactly what it sounds like. If you make any offensive touching of the person, however slight, you can be charged under Article 91. To be convicted, the prosecution must satisfy the following elements:

(1) That (state the time alleged), the accused was (an enlisted service member) (a warrant officer)

(2) That (state the time and place alleged) the accused (struck) (assaulted) (state the name and rank or grade of the person alleged) by (state the alleged manner of the striking or assault)

(3) That, at the time, (state the name and rank or grade of the person alleged) was in the execution of his/her office

(4) That the accused then knew that (state the name and rank or grade of the person alleged) was a (noncommissioned) (warrant) (petty) officer

There then exist the aggravating elements as follows that will bring about more severe punishments.

(5) That (state the name and rank or grade of the person alleged) was the superior (noncommissioned) (petty) officer of the accused

(6) That the accused then knew that (state the name and rank or grade of the person alleged) was his/her superior (noncommissioned) (petty) officer.

Willfully Disobeying a Warrant, Noncommissioned, or Petty Officer

In this charge, willful disobedience is defined as an intentional defiance of authority. To be convicted, the prosecution must satisfy the following elements:

(1) That (state the time alleged), the accused was (an enlisted service member) (a warrant officer)

(2) That the accused received a certain lawful order to (state the terms of the order allegedly given) from (state the name and rank or grade of the person alleged)

(3) That the accused then knew that (state the name and rank or grade of the person alleged) was a (warrant) (noncommissioned) (petty) officer

(4) That the accused had a duty to obey the order

(5) That (state the time and place alleged), the accused willfully disobeyed the order.

Facing an Allegation?
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Timothy James Bilecki

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Contempt or Disrespect Toward Warrant, Noncommissioned, or Petty Officer

The UCMJ defines contempt as insulting, rude, and disdainful conduct, or otherwise disrespectfully attributing to another qualities of meanness, disreputableness, or worthlessness.

It then defines disrespectful as behavior that detracts from the respect due the authority and person. This may consist of acts or language, however expressed, and it is immaterial whether they refer to the person as an officer or as a private individual. To be convicted of contempt or disrespect, the prosecution must satisfy the following elements:

(1) That (state the time alleged), the accused was (an enlisted service member) (a warrant officer)

(2) That (state the time and place alleged), the accused [(did) (omitted) (a) certain act(s)] [used certain language], to wit

(3) That the accused’s (behavior) (language) was used toward and within sight or hearing of (state the name and rank or grade of the person alleged);

(4) That the accused then knew that (state the name and rank or grade of the person alleged) was a (noncommissioned) (warrant) (petty) officer

(5) That (state the name and rank or grade of the person alleged) was then in the execution of his/her office

(6) That, under the circumstances, by such (behavior) (language), the accused (treated with contempt) (was disrespectful toward) (state the name and rank or grade of the person alleged);

There then exists the aggravating elements as follows which will bring about more severe punishments.

(7) That (state the name and rank or grade of the person alleged) was the superior (noncommissioned) (petty) officer of the accused

(8) That the accused then knew that (state the name and rank or grade of the person alleged) was (his) (her) superior (noncommissioned) (petty) officer.

What’s The Worst That Can Happen If Convicted Under Article 91?

It is entirely possible that Article 91 is one of the most abused and misused articles of the UCMJ because so much is entirely relative to the delicate sensitivities of others. All of a sudden because a particular leader is insecure, a shoulder bump in the crowded gally of a ship becomes “assault.” Not complying with the right speed and spirit becomes disobedience and a couple of Lance Corporals drinking and joking outside of the barracks becomes contempt and disrespect.

It infuriates us to no end when we see these charges because we know firsthand that not every leader wearing the stripes can rise up to the responsibility. When those leaders fail, they take it out on some poor enlisted kid and try to ruin their lives for the sake of maintaining military order and discipline. It’s not justice and it’s not right, but it will destroy your life if you don’t put up a fight. The maximum punishments that you can receive for each charge under Article 91 is as follows.

Striking or assaulting:

Warrant Officer – Dishonorable honorabledischarge, total forfeiture of all pay and allowances, 5 years confinement and a reduction in rank to E-1.

 Superior Noncommissioned or Petty Officer -Dishonorable discharge, total forfeiture of all pay and allowances, 3 years confinement and reduction in rank to E-1.

Other Noncommissioned or Petty Officer –Dishonorable discharge, total forfeiture of all pay and allowances, 1 year confinement and reduction in rank to E-1. 

Willful Disobedience: 

Warrant Officer – Dishonorable discharge, total forfeiture of all pay and allowances, 2 years confinement, reduction in rank to E-1.

Noncommissioned or Petty Officer – Bad conduct discharge, total forfeiture of all pay and allowances, 1 year confinement and reduction in rank to E-1. 

Contempt or Disrespect:

Warrant Officer – Bad conduct discharge, total forfeiture of all pay and allowances, 9 months confinement and reduction in rank to E-1.

 Superior Noncommissioned or Petty Officer – Bad conduct discharge, total forfeiture of all pay and allowances, 6 months confinement, and reduction in rank to E-1.

 Other Noncommissioned or Petty Officer – 2/3 pay for 3 months, 3 months confinement, and reduction in rank to E-1.

 Now, regardless of which charge you face, these are some serious consequences to face just because a junior enlisted leader feels disrespected. Even that big chicken dinner discharge can follow you around for the rest of your life. This means if you are facing any of these charges, the only choice you have is to fight for the best possible outcome. If you lay down and just try to take one for the team, the military justice system will destroy your life. They need to make an example out of someone for the UCMJ to work and if you let them, they will happily make that example out of you. 

How To Fight and Beat Charges Under Article 91 of the UCMJ?

Part of the answer rests right there in the subheading. Namely that you fight. Look, even if you did draw back and gift violence to the chin of a 5 foot 2 inch E-4 who has been talking trash like he was Mohhamed Ali since he got that extra stripe, it doesn’t mean you have to accept the max punishment. You can fight. You can secure a better outcome and you can win.

We can show that perhaps the noncommissioned officer was the aggressor or was requesting actions that had no bearing in the execution of their office. Maybe because the young Corporal still dressed like a “boot” in his civies, you had no idea they were superior. It might be that through their own behavior, the noncommissioned officer divested themselves of their rank and position which will allow you to fight the entirety of the charge.

Your career, your life, your future does not have to end at the hands of an insecure leader. These are serious charges and spending a single day in the brig for a shoulder bump in the galley is a travesty to justice. If you are facing these charges or are under investigation, give us a call. It might be that you are a family member frantically searching for an option on behalf of your loved one right now and you don’t know military culture. We do as we have served ourselves and we take the fight to the military justice system without reservation.

Reach out to us and we’ll give you a free consultation as to exactly what you are facing. The truth is that there are some leaders who bring contempt and disrespect upon themselves and you or your loved one shouldn’t pay the price for their poor character. Reach out to us and as long as you are willing to fight, so are we. Please don’t assume you’ll evade the max punishment because at the point you find out you are wrong, it’s too late.

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