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UCMJ Article 94: Mutiny And Sedition

Bilecki Law Group defends members of the military against charges of mutiny and sedition under Article 94 of the UCMJ

What Is Article 94 Of The UCMJ?

Mutiny under Article 94 of the UCMJ occurs when a service member creates violence or a disturbance with the intent to usurp or override lawful military authority. Sedition under Article 94 of the UCMJ occurs when a service member creates a revolt, violence, or a disturbance against a lawful civil authority with the intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of that lawful civil authority.

  • Now, charges of mutiny and sedition don’t come along everyday. However, one would be mistaken to assume mutiny is reserved for the days a crew would revolt against their Pirate Captain.
  • Mutiny and sedition charges do occur and they are some of the most serious charges a military service member can face.
  • Mutiny and sedition charges do occur and they are some of the most serious charges a military service member can face.

Meaning, mutiny can serve as the heavy hammer your command threatens you with in order to get you to plead guilty to lesser charges. It does not matter the nature of the charges under Article 94 that you are facing. If they have pulled Article 94 out of their bag of tricks, the military justice system is coming for you with everything it has. Mutiny and sedition charges under Article 94 are evidence that your back is up against the wall and your only chance to save your life is to stand up and fight back.

The Various Charges and Forms Of Mutiny Under Article 94 UCMJ

One need not lead a bayonet charge on the Captain’s chambers to be charged with mutiny or sedition. The military takes these charges seriously and your mere presence or knowledge of mutinous acts is enough for the military to levy the harshest penalties against you. There are several offenses you can be charged with and each one comes with severe consequences. We’ll cover them all, but first a few key definitions UCMJ defines under these articles.

  1. Violence – means the exertion of physical force.

  2. Disturbance – means the interruption of or interference with a state of peace or order.

  3. Usurp – means to seize and to hold by force or without right.
  4. Override – means to set aside or supersede.

  5. Revolt – means a casting off or repudiation of allegiance or an uprising against legitimate authority.

  6. Overthrow – means overturning or upsetting, causing fall or fail, subverting, defeating, ruining, or destroying.

  7. Destruction – means overthrow, downfall, or causing to fall or fail.

With those definitions in mind, below are the various charges you can face under Article 94 of the UCMJ:

Mutiny By Creating Violence Or Disturbance – This charge presupposes the accused created (violence) (a disturbance) with the intent to (usurp) (override) lawful military authority.

Mutiny By Refusing To Obey Orders Or To Perform Duty – This offense involves the collective insubordination and requires some combination of two or more persons acting together in resisting lawful military authority. To be charged is to say that the accused acted in pursuance of a common intent with another and did so with intent to (usurp) (override) lawful military authority.

Sedition – This charge presupposes that the accused created (revolt) (violence) (a disturbance) against lawful civil authority and did so in concert with another with the intent to cause the (overthrow) (destruction) (overthrow and destruction) of lawful civil authority.

Failure To Prevent And Suppress A Mutiny Or Sedition – This charge presupposes that the accused was in the presence of an act of (mutiny) (sedition) and that the accused failed to do his/her utmost to prevent and suppress the (mutiny) (sedition). Here, utmost is described as taking those measures to prevent or suppress a (mutiny) (sedition) which may be properly called for by the circumstances of the situation, keeping in mind the (rank and responsibilities) of the accused. When extreme measures are necessary under the circumstances, the use of a dangerous weapon or the taking of life may be justified, providing excessive force is not used.

Failure To Report A Mutiny Or Sedition – This charge presupposes that the accused knew or had reason to believe that the offense of (mutiny) (sedition) was taking place and that the accused failed to take all reasonable means to inform his/her superior commissioned officer or his/her commander that the (mutiny) (sedition) was taking place.

Attempted Mutiny – This charge presupposes that the accused did a certain act that was done with the specific intent to commit the offense of mutiny; and that the act amounted to more than mere preparation; that is, it was a direct movement toward the commission of the offense. Also that the act would have resulted in the actual commission of mutiny except for a circumstance unknown to the accused or an unexpected intervening circumstance which prevented completion of that offense.

What is important to note about every variation of the charges under Article 94 is that each offense comes with the maximum punishment of death or other lawful punishment. If you commit an act of mutiny, the max punishment is death. If you try, but fail, to commit an act of mutiny, the max punishment is death. If you saw an act of mutiny and did nothing to stop it, the max punishment is death. If you even heard about a mutiny and failed to report it, the max punishment is death. Whereas genuine acts of mutiny and sedition are rare, the military justice system will use these charges to make it seem like pleading to lesser charges is better than death. It is a racket run to perfection and the below case study highlights that more than most.

Mutiny At Sea And Charges Under Article 94 of the UCMJ

In 1972, three Marines aboard the U.S.S. Sumter were about to make military history for all the wrong reasons. They would become the first Sailors or Marines charged with mutiny at sea since the Civil War. A seemingly archaic charge not levied in over a century, Article 94 would become the hammer used to construct an unjust case against the three Marines.

Racial strife had permeated throughout the Sumter as was much of the case throughout the early 70’s military. Just 30 years earlier, gallant men of color could not serve within the same units as white Marines and it is safe to say that systematic racism had not been removed in one career’s time. Black Marines onboard the Sumter would routinely report surprise uniform inspections, capricious punishments from NCOs and even being handed cold and inedible food from the mess hall.

Remarkably, a particular catalyst for the event that led to charges of mutiny revolved around African American Marines playing music by black artists. Whereas music was approved for play over the ship’s loudspeaker at times, white Sailors and Marines objected to what Marines of color were playing when certain Marines acted as DJ. On one occasion, a white officer sent a black Marine to the brig and confined with just water and bread for the infraction of not having his uniform in order.

Physical fights began to become a common occurrence and though instigators existed on all sides throughout the vessel, three black Marines were about to face the ultimate punishment. After one such fight, three black Marines were flown off the ship and later told they were facing charges of mutiny at sea. Now in a jail cell in Okinawa, the three Marines awaited a civilian lawyer sent to them by the National Conference of Black Lawyers. When that lawyer was enroute, the Marines told the lawyer that all charges had been dropped. It was a lie, but a good enough lie to divert the civilian lawyer.

Facing up to 65 years in prison, the mutiny charges were later dropped as a result of the three Marines accepting unfavorable administrative separations. A discharge status that would haunt these Marines for years and decades to come. Numerous studies have shown that higher rates of homelessness, substance abuse, and suicide exist among veterans with bad paper discharges. Each of the Marines discharged in this case faced numerous difficulties and it all started with them pleading to avoid charges of mutiny.

The Military Justice System Will Use Mutiny And Sedition To Destroy You

The United States military has made huge strides when it comes to racial equity in the military since 1972, but one thing remains the same. The military justice system will use charges of mutiny and sedition to destroy you, regardless of color, regardless of rank, if you stand in the way of their pursuit of order. However, when the military throws mutiny and sedition charges under the assumption that you’ll be too scared to fight them, there is your path to victory. There are multiple ways we can fight charges under Article 94.

  • Destroy the Mutiny and Sedition Charges Upfront – Defending against the mutiny and sedition charges is the first priority as not only does this eliminate the most serious charge, but it destroys their ability to use mutiny and sedition as leverage against you. Was it really a mutiny that you were attempting? Was the mutiny you failed to report being conducted by more senior personnel and thus, you had reason to believe they were in the right? Were you hiding out in the barracks to avoid police calling the range like any good Lance Corporal would or were you really trying to overthrow military command by shirking that duty? Look, there is a reason why you don’t see many mutiny charges heading to trial these days. It’s not an easy thing to prove unless you were knee deep in the conspiracy. We’ll destroy those charges up front so that you can be free to fight the rest of the BS charges without this hanging over your head.

  • Make Them Work Overtime To Tie You To A Larger Plot – There is a lot going on in our modern world and in light of the last few contentious elections and the incidents that took place on January 6th, 2021, military prosecutors may be looking to tie you to a larger plot. We won’t make that easy on them. Just because you preferenced a different Commander in Chief doesn’t mean your tweet or Facebook post was a call to sedition. If they want to tie you to a larger plot of sedition, they are going to have to put in the work. No easy wins. We fight them at every turn and make them look for an easier target.

An Experienced Court Martial Defense Attorney Can Win

Finally, we’ll just close with reminding you of the seriousness of these charges. Yes, they are often used as leverage and scare tactics as they were with the young Marines aboard the Sumter. However, even if you plead away from the most serious charges, your life can still be destroyed. Moreover, if you go with an inexperienced attorney, they might not know when to blink and as such, you’ll actually find yourself at court martial facing real mutiny charges and real consequences.

If the prosecution has even mentioned Article 94 of the UCMJ, you know this is serious business and you need to get serious help. If you are facing such charges or it has even been mentioned, reach out to us. We’ll give you a free consultation and shoot you straight on what you are facing. Then, as long as you are willing to fight, then so are we. In fact, you must fight. Don’t let them scare you into signing away the rest of your life. Stand up and fight back.

Facing an Allegation?
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Timothy James Bilecki

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