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Article 118 UCMJ Premeditated Murder

Note: This law applies only to Article 118 UCMJ Premeditated Murder offenses allegedly committed on or after 1 January 2019.

What is Article 118(1) UCMJ Premeditated Murder?

Article 118 UCMJ Premeditated Murder military defense attorneysArticle 118 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) addresses the crime of murder, with premeditated murder being one of the most severe offenses under military law. Premeditated murder, as defined under Article 118(1), involves the unlawful and intentional killing of another person with premeditation and malice aforethought.

This means that the accused not only intended to kill but also planned or deliberated on the act before carrying it out. The element of premeditation indicates a conscious and deliberate decision to commit murder, making it a particularly egregious crime.

The seriousness of a premeditated murder charge under Article 118 cannot be overstated. Convictions carry severe penalties, reflecting the gravity of taking another person’s life with intent and forethought. The potential consequences include the death penalty, life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, dishonorable discharge from the military, and forfeiture of all pay and allowances. These penalties are designed to underscore the crime’s severity and serve as a deterrent to others.

What are the Types of Murder Under Article 118 UCMJ?

  1. Article 118(1) UCMJ Premeditated Murder
  2. Article 118(2) UCMJ Unpremeditated Murder
  3. Article 118(3) UCMJ Murder while engaging in an act inherently dangerous to another
  4. Article 118(4) UCMJ Murder

Article 118(1) UCMJ Premeditated Murder Court Martial Attorneys

Given the grave nature of premeditated murder charges and the harsh penalties associated with a conviction, it is crucial for anyone accused of this crime to seek experienced legal representation immediately. Civilian military defense lawyers, skilled in military law and with extensive experience with court-martial cases, are essential in navigating the complexities of the military justice system.

These lawyers can provide critical support by thoroughly investigating the case, challenging the prosecution’s evidence, and developing a strong defense strategy to protect the accused’s rights. Their skill can make a significant difference in ensuring a fair trial and striving for the best possible outcome. Engaging a skilled civilian military defense lawyer is not just advisable but imperative for those facing such serious charges.

What are the Elements of Article 118(1) UCMJ Premeditated Murder?

  1. That (state the name of the alleged victim) is dead;
  2. That his/her death resulted from the (act) (omission) of the accused in (state the act or failure to act alleged) at (state the time and place alleged);
  3. That the killing of (state the name or description of the alleged victim) by the accused was unlawful; and
  4. That, at the time of the killing, the accused had a premeditated design to kill.

What are the Maximum Punishments for Article 118(1) UCMJ Premeditated Murder?

Maximum Punishment for Article 118(1) UCMJ Premeditated Murder committed between 1 Jan 2019 to 27 Dec 2023:

  • Death or mandatory minimum of confinement for life with eligibility for parole.
  • Dishonorable Discharge, BCD, Dismissal
  • Total Forfeitures
  • Reduction to E-1
  • Collateral Consequences of a Federal Felony Conviction

Maximum Punishment for Article 118(1) UCMJ Premeditated Murder committed after 27 Dec 2023

  • Under the Sentencing Parameters, Article 118 UCMJ Premeditated Murder is a Category 6 Offense – Confinement for life with eligibility for parole
  • Dishonorable Discharge, BCD, Dismissal
  • Total Forfeitures
  • Reduction to E-1
  • Collateral Consequences of a Federal Felony Conviction
  • Note: The Military Judge MAY impose a period of confinement less than the jurisdictional maximum period of confinement upon finding specific facts that warrant such a sentence. Manual for Courts-Martial, United States (2024 ed.), Appendix 12B-C

What is UCMJ Article 118 Premeditated Murder?

Combined UCMJ Maximum Punishment Charts

Sample Specifications for Article 118 UCMJ Premeditated Murder

In that SGT John Rambo, US Army, did, Saigon, Vietnam, on or about  3 July 2025, with premeditation, murder Ho Cho Minh by means of shooting him with a rifle bow and arrow.

Model Specifications for Article 118 UCMJ Premeditated Murder

In that __________ (personal jurisdiction data), did, (at/on board—location), on or about  _______, with premeditation, murder __________ by means of (shooting (him) (her) with a rifle) (__________).

What are the Definitions for Article 118 UCMJ Premeditated Murder?

The killing of a human being is unlawful when done without legal justification or excuse.

“Premeditated design to kill” means the formation of a specific intent to kill and consideration of the act intended to bring about death. The “premeditated design to kill” does not have to exist for any measurable or particular length of time. The only requirement is that it must precede the killing.

Premeditation and lesser included offenses in Article 118(1) UCMJ Premeditated Murder cases. If the evidence raises an issue as to the accused’s capacity to premeditate, Instruction 6-5, Partial Mental Responsibility, Instruction 5-17, Evidence Negating Mens Rea, and/or Instruction 5-12, Voluntary Intoxication, may be applicable. If so, instruct on the elements of unpremeditated murder and any other lesser included offenses that may be raised by the evidence.

Lesser included offenses otherwise raised in Article 118(1) UCMJ Premeditated Murder cases. When the accused denies premeditated design to kill or other evidence in the case tends to negate such design, instruction on unpremeditated murder (Instruction 3a-42-2) will ordinarily be necessary.

If the denial extends to any intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm, or other evidence tends to negate such intent, an instruction on involuntary manslaughter (Instruction 3a-43-2) must ordinarily be given.

Causation. If an issue is raised at trial regarding whether the death resulted from the act of the accused, it may be necessary to instruct on lesser included offenses that do not include the death of the victim.

Transferred intent in Article 118 UCMJ Premeditated Murder cases. When an issue of transferred intent is raised by the evidence, the court may be instructed substantially as follows:

When a person with a premeditated design to kill attempts unlawfully to kill a certain person, but, by mistake or inadvertence, kills another person, the individual is still criminally responsible for a premeditated murder, because the premeditated design to kill is transferred from the intended victim of (his) (her) action to the actual victim.

If you are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim named in the specification is dead and that (his) (her) death resulted from the unlawful (act) (omission) of the accused in (state the act or omission alleged) with the premeditated design to kill (state the name or description of the individual other than the alleged victim), you may still find the accused guilty of the premeditated killing of (state the name or description of the alleged victim).

Passion and ability to premeditate. When the evidence indicates that the passion of the accused may have affected his or her capacity to premeditate, as in the case where there was a lapse of time between adequate provocation and the act, but the passion of the accused persists, the court may be instructed substantially as follows:

An issue has been raised by the evidence as to whether the accused acted in the heat of sudden “passion.”

“Passion” means a degree of rage, pain, or fear which prevents cool reflection. If sufficient cooling off time passes between the provocation and the time of the killing which would allow a reasonable person to regain self-control and refrain from killing, the provocation will not reduce murder to the lesser offense of voluntary manslaughter.

However, you may consider evidence of the accused’s passion in determining whether (he) (she) possessed sufficient mental capacity to have “the premeditated design to kill.”

An accused cannot be found guilty of premeditated murder if, at the time of the killing, (his) (her) mind was so confused by (anger) (rage) (pain) (sudden resentment) (fear) (or) (_________) that (he) (she) could not or did not premeditate. On the other hand, the fact that the accused’s passion may have continued at the time of the killing does not necessarily demonstrate that (he) (she) was deprived of the ability to premeditate or that (he) (she) did not premeditate.

Thus, (if you are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that sufficient cooling off time had passed between the provocation and the time of the killing which would allow a reasonable person to regain his/her self-control and refrain from killing), you must decide whether the accused in fact had the premeditated design to kill.

Suppose you are not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused killed with premeditation. In that case, you may still find (him) (her) guilty of unpremeditated murder if you are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the death of (state the name of the alleged victim) was caused, without justification or excuse, by an (act) (failure to act) of the accused and (the accused intended to kill or inflict great bodily harm on the victim) (the act of the accused was inherently dangerous to others and showed a wanton disregard for human life).

The issue of sudden passion caused by adequate provocation was raised. When killing in the heat of sudden passion caused by adequate provocation is an issue, the military judge should instruct on the lesser included offense of voluntary manslaughter as well as unpremeditated murder.

Brain death instruction. The military standard for death includes brain death. An individual is dead who has sustained either (1) irreversible cessation of spontaneous respiration and circulatory functions or (2) irreversible cessation of all functions of the brain, including the brain stem. See US v. Gomez, 15 MJ 954 (ACMR 1983); US v. Jefferson, 22 MJ 315 (CMA 1986); and US v. Taylor, 44 MJ 254 (CAAF 1996). Instruction 7-24, Brain Death, may be adapted for this circumstance.

Understanding Article 118(1) UCMJ Premeditated Murder

Article 118(1) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) addresses the most severe form of homicide within the military justice system: premeditated murder. Under this statute, an individual is charged with premeditated murder if it is believed that they deliberately planned and executed the killing of another person. This is considered one of the most serious offenses due to the intent and preplanning involved in the act.

Conviction under Article 118(1) can lead to the most severe penalties, including a potential sentence of death, life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, or other severe sentences. The prosecution must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused had a thoroughly conceived plan and executed it to cause the death of another.

Given the gravity of the charge, any person who finds themselves accused under Article 118(1) should seek immediate legal counsel. The processes and procedures within a military court-martial are complex and require a deep understanding of both military and criminal law.

The Role of a Military Defense Lawyer in Article 118(1) UCMJ Premeditated Murder Cases

The stakes are incredibly high when facing a charge under Article 118(1) UCMJ. Having a seasoned military defense attorney is crucial. These attorneys understand the unique nuances of military law and possess the experience to navigate the intricacies of a court-martial proceeding effectively.

Hiring a Military Defense Lawyer for Article 118(1) UCMJ Premeditated Murder

Defending against a premeditated murder charge involves scrutinizing the evidence, challenging the prosecution’s assertions, and ensuring that every legal right of the accused is protected throughout the legal process. From pre-trial motions to the final arguments, a competent military defense lawyer will provide the strategic defense necessary to fight the charges vigorously.

Selecting the Best Military Defense Lawyers for Article 118(1) UCMJ Premeditated Murder

If you or a loved one faces accusations under Article 118(1) UCMJ, it is essential to act swiftly and secure the representation of a dedicated military defense attorney. The team at Gonzalez & Waddington is committed to providing the robust defense required in such critical circumstances, ensuring that every aspect of the case is meticulously examined and defended.

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