UCMJ Article 111: Leaving The Scene Of A Vehicle Accident

At Bilecki Law Group, we defend service members from charges for leaving the scene of a vehicle accident under Article 111 of the UCMJ. This includes charges that can be levied against either the driver or passenger. 

What Is Article 111 Of The UCMJ?

Article 111 of the UCMJ is used by military prosecutors to bring charges of leaving the scene of a vehicle accident against members of the armed services. These charges can be brought against either the driver or the passenger of the vehicle. An additional charge under Article 111 is brought if the passenger was the senior service member involved.

While Article 111 does identify that the accident in question must result in personal injury or property damage, military prosecutors will latch onto the tiniest scratch on either person or property to prove said damage. So, unless you spun out in the middle of a vacant field and didn’t so much as run over a cricket or leave a rutted path in the grass, it’s likely your accident in question would apply.

Leaving the scene of an accident is a charge that has an equivalent in the civilian world, but the punishments are in no way comparable. A civilian is not going to spend six months in military prison. A civilian is not going to forfeit all pay and allowances from their job. A civilian is not going to receive a discharge status that will follow them wherever they go in life. You are a service member and you are under investigation or facing court martial under Article 111, you need to take this charge seriously.

 

What Must Prosecutors Prove to Convict Under Article 111?

There are two specific charges that fall under Article 111 of the UCMJ and though they are similar, each one has its own unique set of elements that must be satisfied. It is also entirely possible, if not likely, that Article 111 charges are just one of the Articles being thrown against you. It is easy to violate several Articles of the UCMJ in one event and as such, beating at least the Article 111 charge may be your path to avoiding the worst possible outcome. The Article 111 charges are as follows:

Leaving The Scene Of A Vehicle Accident (Driver Or Passenger Charged As A Principal

For a service member to be found guilty, the prosecution must satisfy the following five elements:

 

(1) That you were the driver of a vehicle

(2) That while you were driving, the vehicle was involved in an accident that resulted in personal injury or property damage;

(3) That you knew the vehicle had been in an accident

(4) That you left the scene of the accident without [providing assistance to (state the name of the alleged victim), who had been struck and injured by the vehicle] [providing personal identification to others involved in the accident or to appropriate authorities]; and

(5) That your leaving was wrongful.

Note: These elements would be carefully tailored if it was a passenger, other than a senior passenger) being charged.

Maximum Punishment: Bad Conduct Discharge, total forfeiture of all pay and allowances, 6 months confinement, and reduction in rank to E-1.

Leaving The Scene Of A Vehicle Accident (Senior Passenger)

For a service member to be found guilty, the prosecution must satisfy the following three elements:

(1) That (state the time and place alleged), the accused was a passenger in a vehicle which was involved in an accident resulting in personal injury or property damage;

(2) That the accused knew that the vehicle had been in an accident; and

(3) That the accused was the [superior (commissioned) (noncommissioned) officer of the driver] [commander of the vehicle] and wrongfully and unlawfully ordered, caused, or permitted the driver to leave the scene of the accident without [providing assistance to (state the name of the alleged victim), who had been struck and injured by the vehicle] [providing personal identification to others involved in the accident or to appropriate authorities].

Maximum Punishment: Bad Conduct Discharge, total forfeiture of all pay and allowances, 6 months confinement, and reduction in rank to E-1.

Can Article 111 Charges Really End My Military Career?

Yes, they absolutely can. It’s not right and it’s not justice, but it is the UCMJ. You could be a hard pipe hitting SEAL ready to do your worst upon America’s enemies and if the prosecution and command feels like it, they will take everything from you. That’s because the UCMJ doesn’t really exist for the purpose of pursuing truth and justice. Rather, it exists to maintain military order and discipline. 

For the UCMJ to achieve its purpose, it requires that they make a public example out of someone in order to scare the rest of the military into compliance. You can never guarantee that the prosecution won’t pick your case forge that example. In fact, if they sense that you don’t plan to fight and stand up for the sum of your military career after one mistake, you can almost be assured that they will make an example out of you.

Enlistment patches for services members

How To Fight and Beat Charges of Leaving the Scene Of An Accident?

Look, it’s rare that Article 111 charges are brought up out of thin air or in a case of complete mistaken identity. There likely was some sort of accident and at one point you were in the vicinity and then you were not. However, there is always so much more to the story than the prosecution would like to make known.

It’s possible you had no idea there was an accident as it could have been very minor. It may be that you thought the immediate scene was unsafe for some reason and you left because you have excellent situational awareness. It might even be that you assumed the other guy caused the accident, but because you drive a beat-up Toyota truck that looks like it came straight from combat in Iraq, you just waved the other guy off out of mercy.

The point is that there is always more to the story, but you are going to have to fight to get that story told. The prosecution is going to try and describe you like a driver straight from Mad Max Fury Road and you left the scene because of the dead hookers and cocaine in the trunk. When in reality, you were just in a hurry so you were not late for formation and you assumed leaving the scene of a fender bender was the lesser evil. You are going to need an experienced military court martial defense attorney who knows how to take the fight for the narrative right to the heart of the military prosecution. 

Do not let accusations of a fraudulent claim destroy your military career and future. Contact Bilecki Law Group today for a free consultation into your case.  

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Fight Back Or Risk Losing Everything

Sadly, the first time a service member realizes how serious the prosecution is about taking everything from them is when the sentence is read. By then, it’s too late. Again, you have to present yourself as a harder target than the next guy. Let them get their sacrificial “example” out of someone else with a little less fight in them than you. You stand up and fight for the career, benefits, and retirement that you deserve.

American flag in Hawaii

If you are facing investigation or court martial under Article 111 of the UCMJ, reach out to us. We’ll give you a free consultation and we’ll shoot you straight on exactly what you are facing. We’ll put together our own investigation and even if you are facing a cocktail of UCMJ Article charges, we’ll fight each one to secure you the best possible outcome. As long as you are willing to fight like hell, so are we. Your willingness to fight back can pave the way for future service members to avoid such abuse and misuse of the UCMJ. Reach out to us and get us into that fight.

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Don’t just plead guilty… Fight Back !