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Article 120b UCMJ Sexual Abuse of a Child Involving Indecent Conduct

Note: This law applies only to Article 120b UCMJ Sexual Abuse of a Child Involving Indecent Conduct offenses committed on and after 1 January 2019.

What is Article 120B UCMJ Sexual Abuse of a Child Involving Indecent Conduct?

Article 120b UCMJ Sexual Abuse of a Child Involving Indecent ConductArticle 120b of the UCMJ addresses sexual abuse of a child involving indecent conduct. This offense includes engaging in indecent acts or contact with a child under the age of 16, intending to gratify sexual desires. The UCMJ strictly prohibits such behavior to protect minors within military communities.

Penalties for violating Article 120b can be severe, including lengthy confinement, dishonorable discharge, and forfeiture of pay. Given the gravity of these charges and the lifelong consequences, the accused must seek representation from the best military defense lawyers.

Court martial lawyers are essential in these cases, as they have the expertise to navigate the complexities of military law and build a strong defense. They can challenge the prosecution’s evidence, protect the accused’s rights, and work toward the best possible outcome.

Engaging experienced court martial lawyers, such as those at Gonzalez & Waddington, can significantly impact the case. Their deep understanding of military justice and commitment to defending service members ensure a comprehensive and effective defense strategy.

Article 120b UCMJ Sexual Abuse of a Child Crimes:

What are the Elements of Article 120b UCMJ Sexual Abuse of a Child Involving Indecent Conduct?

  1. That (state the time and place alleged), the accused committed a lewd act upon (state the name of the alleged victim), by engaging in indecent conduct, to wit: (state the alleged indecent conduct); and
  2. That at the time of the lewd act (state the name of the alleged victim) had not attained the age of 16 years.

What are the Maximum Punishments for Article 120b UCMJ Sexual Abuse of a Child Involving Indecent Conduct?

Max Punishments for Article 120b UCMJ Sexual Abuse of a Child Involving Indecent Conduct offenses committed between 1 January 2019 and 27 December 2023:

  • 20 Years of Confinement
  • Dishonorable Discharge, Bad Conduct Discharge, Dismissal
  • Total Forfeitures
  • Reduction to E-1
  • Federal Felony Conviction
  • Registration as a State & Federal Sex Offender

Max Punishments for Article 120b UCMJ Sexual Abuse of a Child Involving Indecent Conduct offenses committed after 27 December 2023

  • Under the Sentencing Parameters, Article 120b UCMJ Sexual Abuse of a Child Involving Indecent Conduct is a Category 3 Offense – Confinement from 30-120 months (2 years and 6 months to 10 years)
  • Dishonorable Discharge, Bad Conduct Discharge, Dismissal
  • Total Forfeitures
  • Reduction to E-1
  • Federal Felony Conviction
  • Registration as a State & Federal Sex Offender
  • 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

Combined UCMJ Maximum Punishment Charts

Sample Specification for Article 120b UCMJ Sexual Abuse of a Child Involving Indecent Conduct

In that Senior Chief Petty Officer Reynaldo Sanchez, US Navy, did, at or near Naples, Italy, on or about 4 June 2025, commit a lewd act upon Brian Tipston, a child who had not attained the age of 16 years, by engaging in indecent conduct, to wit: masturbating, intentionally done in the presence of Brian Tipston, which conduct amounted to a form of immorality relating to sexual impurity which is grossly vulgar, obscene, and repugnant to common propriety, and tends to excite sexual desire or deprave morals with respect to sexual relations.

Model Specification for Article 120b UCMJ Sexual Abuse of a Child Involving Indecent Conduct

In that __________ (personal jurisdiction data), did, (at/on board—location), on or about _________, commit a lewd act upon ________, a child who had not attained the age of 16 years, by engaging in indecent conduct, to wit: _______, intentionally done (with) (in the presence of) _______, which conduct amounted to a form of immorality relating to sexual impurity which is grossly vulgar, obscene, and repugnant to common propriety, and tends to excite sexual desire or deprave morals concerning sexual relations.

What are the Definitions for Article 120b UCMJ Sexual Abuse of a Child Involving Indecent Conduct?

“Lewd act” means:

  • any sexual contact with a child;
  • intentionally exposing one’s genitalia, anus, buttocks, or female areola or nipple to a child by any means, including via any communication technology, with an intent to abuse, humiliate, or degrade any person or to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person;
  • intentionally communicating indecent language to a child by any means, including via any communication technology, with an intent to abuse, humiliate, or degrade any person, or to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person; or
  • any indecent conduct, intentionally done with or in the presence of a child, including via any communication technology, that amounts to a form of immorality relating to sexual impurity that is grossly vulgar, obscene, and repugnant to common propriety and tends to excite sexual desire or deprave morals with respect to sexual relations.

“Sexual contact” means touching or causing another person to touch, either directly or through the clothing, the vulva, penis, scrotum, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of any person, with an intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, or degrade any person or to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person. Touching may be accomplished by any part of the body or an object.

“Child” means any person who has not attained the age of 16 years.

The prosecution is not required to prove the accused knew the age of (state the name of the alleged victim) at the time the alleged sexual act(s) occurred.

Mistake of fact as to age. Mistake of fact as to age is an affirmative defense to sexual abuse of a child if the child had, in fact, attained the age of 12 years. If raised by some evidence, the military judge must advise the members that the defense has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that mistake existed. When a mistake of fact as to age has been raised, include the following instructions. The burden of proof in the instruction below is as provided in the statute.

The evidence has raised the issue of mistake on the part of the accused concerning the offense(s) of sexual abuse of a child, as alleged in (the) Specification(s) (___) of (the) (Additional) Charge (___). Specifically, the mistake concerns the accused’s belief that (state the name of the alleged victim) was at least 16 years of age when the alleged lewd act(s) occurred.

First, if you find beyond a reasonable doubt that (state the name of the alleged victim) had not attained the age of 12 years, the defense of mistake of fact does not exist. The defense of mistake of fact can only be considered, as described below if you find beyond a reasonable doubt that (state the name of the alleged victim) had attained the age of 12 but had not attained the age of 16.

The prosecution is not required to prove the accused knew that (state the name of the alleged victim) had not attained the age of 16 years at the time the alleged lewd act(s) occurred. However, an honest and reasonable mistake of fact as to (state the name of the alleged victim)’s age is a defense to (that) (those) charged offense(s).

“Mistake of fact as to age” in means the accused held, as a result of ignorance or mistake, an incorrect belief that the other person engaging in the sexual conduct was at least 16 years old. The ignorance or mistake must have existed in the mind of the accused and must have been reasonable under all the circumstances. To be reasonable the ignorance or mistake must have been based on information, or lack of it, which would indicate to a reasonable person that (state the name of the alleged victim) was at least 16 years old.

Additionally, the ignorance or mistake cannot be based on the negligent failure to discover the true facts. Negligence is the absence of due care. Due care is what a reasonably careful person would do under the same or similar circumstances.

The burden is on the defense to establish the accused was under this mistaken belief by a preponderance of the evidence. A “preponderance” means more likely than not. If you are not convinced by a preponderance of the evidence that, at the time of the charged sexual abuse of a child, the accused was under a mistaken belief that (state the name of the alleged victim) was at least 16 years old, the defense does not exist.

Even if you conclude, the accused was under the honest and mistaken belief that (state the name of the alleged victim) was at least 16 years old, if you are not convinced by a preponderance of the evidence that, at the time of the charged sexual abuse of a child, the accused’s mistake was reasonable, the defense does not exist.

Voluntary intoxication and mistake of fact as to age in Article 120b UCMJ Sexual Abuse of a Child Involving Indecent Conduct case. If there is evidence of the accused’s voluntary intoxication, the following instruction is appropriate:

There is evidence in this case that indicates that, at the time of the alleged sexual abuse of a child, the accused may have been under the influence of (alcohol) (drugs). The accused’s state of voluntary intoxication, if any, at the time of the offense is not relevant to mistake of fact.

A mistaken belief that (state the name of the alleged victim) was at least 16 years of age must be that which a reasonably careful, ordinary, prudent, sober adult would have had under the circumstances at the time of the offense. Voluntary intoxication does not permit what would be an unreasonable belief in the mind of a sober person to be considered reasonable because the person is intoxicated.

Marriage. Marriage is an affirmative defense to sexual abuse of a child in an Article 120b UCMJ Sexual Abuse of a Child Involving Indecent Conduct case. If raised by some evidence, the military judge must advise the members that the defense has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that a marriage existed. When marriage between the accused and the alleged victim of the sexual abuse of a child has been raised, include the following instruction:

The evidence has raised the issue of marriage between the accused and (state the name of the alleged victim) concerning the offense(s) of sexual abuse of a child, as alleged in (the) Specification(s) (___) of (the) (Additional) Charge (___). It is a defense to (that) (those) charged offense(s) that the accused and (state the name of the alleged victim) were married to each other when the lewd act(s) occurred.

A “marriage” is a relationship, recognized by the laws of a competent State or foreign jurisdiction, between the accused and (state the name of the alleged victim) as spouses. A marriage exists until it is dissolved by the laws of a competent State or foreign jurisdiction.

The defense of marriage does not exist where the accused commits the alleged lewd act(s) upon (state the name of the alleged victim) when the accused knows or reasonably should know that she/he is asleep, unconscious, or otherwise unaware that the lewd act(s) (is) (are) occurring or when she/he is incapable of consenting to the lewd act(s) due to impairment by any drug, intoxicant or other similar substance, and that condition was known or reasonably should have been known by the accused.

The defense has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the defense of marriage exists. The term “preponderance” means more likely than not.

Therefore, unless you are convinced by a preponderance of the evidence that at the time of the lewd act(s) alleged, the accused and (state the name of the alleged victim) were married to each other, the defense of marriage does not exist.

Even if you are convinced by a preponderance of the evidence that at the time of the lewd act(s) alleged, the accused and (state the name of the alleged victim) were married to each other, if you are not also convinced by a preponderance of the evidence that (state the name of the alleged victim) was not (asleep, unconscious or otherwise unaware of the lewd act(s) occurring) (incapable of consenting to the lewd act(s) due to impairment by any drug, intoxicant or other similar substance) or that the accused was not aware of and should not have been aware of such condition, the defense of marriage does not exist.

Article 120b UCMJ Sexual Abuse of a Child Involving Indecent Conduct Military Defense Lawyers

If you are suspected or accused of Article 120b UCMJ Sexual Abuse of a Child Involving Indecent Conduct, speak with one of our experienced military court martial lawyers to discuss your case.

Article 120b UCMJ Sexual Abuse of a Child Involving Indecent Conduct

Article 120b of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) addresses sexual abuse of a child involving indecent conduct. This article is crucial for protecting minors within the military community from indecent acts and ensuring that offenders are held accountable. This guide provides a detailed overview of Article 120b, including the elements of the offense, potential punishments, and broader implications of a conviction.

Basics of Article 120b UCMJ Sexual Abuse of a Child Involving Indecent Conduct

To secure a conviction for sexual abuse of a child involving indecent conduct under Article 120b, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • Victim’s Age: The victim was under the age of 16 at the time of the offense.
  • Indecent Conduct: The accused engaged in indecent conduct with the victim. “Indecent conduct” includes behavior that is grossly offensive to community standards of decency and morality, which may include exposing genitals, masturbating in the presence of a child, or other actions intended to arouse or gratify sexual desires.
  • Intent: The accused acted with the specific intent to commit the indecent act.

Collateral Consequences of Article 120b UCMJ Sexual Abuse of a Child Involving Indecent Conduct Conviction

A conviction for sexual abuse of a child involving indecent conduct under Article 120b has numerous collateral consequences, including:

  • Sex Offender Registration: The convicted individual will be required to register as a sex offender. This involves being listed on public sex offender registries, regular reporting to law enforcement, and restrictions on residency and employment.
  • Employment Challenges: Finding civilian employment can be extremely difficult for registered sex offenders, especially those with a dishonorable discharge. Many employers are hesitant to hire individuals with such a conviction.
  • Loss of Military Benefits: Convicted individuals typically lose all military benefits, including retirement pay, healthcare benefits, and access to military facilities.
  • Social Stigma: The social stigma attached to being a registered sex offender can lead to isolation, harassment, and difficulties in maintaining personal relationships.
  • Legal Restrictions: Convicted sex offenders may face various legal restrictions, including limits on internet usage, travel, and contact with minors.

Impact on the Victim in Article 120b UCMJ Sexual Abuse of a Child Involving Indecent Conduct Case

The impact of sexual abuse involving indecent conduct on a child victim can be profound and long-lasting. Victims may experience a range of emotional, psychological, and physical effects, including:

  • Emotional Trauma: Feelings of shame, guilt, and anxiety are common among victims of sexual abuse. These feelings can persist into adulthood and affect all areas of life.
  • Psychological Issues: Victims may develop mental health conditions such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other anxiety disorders.
  • Physical Health Problems: Sexual abuse can lead to physical injuries and long-term health issues, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Behavioral Changes: Victims may exhibit changes in behavior, such as withdrawal from social activities, difficulty in school, and increased risk-taking behaviors.
  • Relationship Difficulties: Trust issues and difficulties in forming healthy relationships are common among survivors of sexual abuse.

Legal Defenses for Article 120b UCMJ Sexual Abuse of a Child Involving Indecent Conduct

Accused individuals have the right to present a defense against charges of sexual abuse of a child involving indecent conduct. Common defenses include:

  • Consent: While this defense is not applicable if the victim is under the age of consent (16), it may be argued if there is a question about the victim’s age.
  • Mistaken Identity: The defense may argue that the accused was not the individual who committed the offense.
  • False Accusations: The defense may present evidence suggesting that the accusations are false or motivated by ulterior motives.
  • Lack of Intent: The defense may argue that the conduct was not intended to be indecent or that the accused did not have the requisite intent to commit the act.

Importance of Legal Representation in Article 120b UCMJ Sexual Abuse of a Child Involving Indecent Conduct Case

Given the serious nature of the charges and the severe consequences of a conviction, it is crucial for individuals accused of sexual abuse of a child under Article 120b to seek experienced legal representation. A qualified military defense attorney can provide guidance, build a strong defense, and ensure that the accused’s rights are protected throughout the legal process.

Court Martial Lawyers for Article 120b UCMJ Sexual Abuse of a Child Involving Indecent Conduct

Article 120b UCMJ’s provisions on sexual abuse of a child involving indecent conduct are designed to protect minors within the military community and uphold the standards of conduct required for military service. The severe penalties and collateral consequences underscore the gravity of such offenses. Understanding the elements of the offense, potential defenses, and the importance of legal representation is essential for anyone facing such charges.

For more information on military law and the UCMJ, visit the official UCMJ website.

What are the collateral consequences of having to register as a convicted sex offender?

Sex Offenders Often Cannot Live Near or Visit “Places Where Children Congregate.”
What does that mean? It means a registered sex offender may not be allowed to live near or visit schools, parks and playgrounds, beaches, shopping malls, stores, movie theaters, community centers, places of worship, libraries, recreational facilities, skating rinks, bus stops, and many more.

Potential Collateral Consequences of a Conviction of Article 120b Article 120b UCMJ Sexual Abuse of a Child Involving Indecent Conduct

A military member convicted of Article 120b UCMJ Sexual Abuse of a Child Involving Indecent Conduct must register as a sex offender. A registered sex offender may suffer the following collateral consequences:
  • Denied housing
  • Loss of family
  • Isolation
  • No educational opportunities
  • Unemployable
  • Physical assault
  • Increased homelessness
  • Harassment
  • Financial hardship
  • Stigmatization
  • The decline in mental health
  • No internet access
  • Deterioration of social bonds
  • Loss of residency
  • Deterioration of social bonds
  • Difficulty finding employment
  • Difficulty finding housing
  • Difficulty with relationships
  • Social disgrace and humiliation
  • Loss of friends
  • Loss of custody of children
  • Lack of privacy

Potential Collateral Consequences of a Federal Conviction

  • Employment will be severely limited (many employers won’t hire a convict)
  • Inability to enroll in college, university, or trade school
  • Loss of GI Bill
  • Loss of military career
  • Loss of retirement benefits.
  • Loss of VA benefits.
  • Loss of medical benefits.
  • Loss of spouse, family members, and friends
  • Loss of income while in jail
  • Mental and physical suffering before and after prison
  • Ineligibility for public benefits, such as food stamps
  • Ineligibility for government-sponsored student loans and grants;
  • Restrictions on certain types of employment or occupational licenses;
  • Ineligibility to provide foster care to minor family members
  • Prohibitions on working with children
  • Loss of professional license or certification
  • Limitations on adoption or foster care
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