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Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language

Note: This law applies only to Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language offenses allegedly committed on or after 1 January 2019.

What is Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language?

Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language military defense lawyers

Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) covers a range of offenses that are not specifically addressed elsewhere in the code but can negatively impact good order, discipline, and the armed forces’ reputation. One such offense is the use of indecent language.

Indecent language is defined as speech that is grossly offensive to modesty, decency, or propriety and which shocks the moral sense due to its vulgar, filthy, or obscene nature. Within the military context, this type of language is not protected by free speech, as it can disrupt the professional environment, undermine authority, and harm morale and cohesion among service members.

To secure a conviction for indecent language under Article 134, the prosecution must prove three elements beyond a reasonable doubt: the accused used specific language, the language was indecent, and the conduct was prejudicial to good order and discipline or of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.

The interpretation of indecent language relies on its natural meaning and the context in which it is used. Factors such as the speaker’s setting, audience, and intent are crucial in determining whether the language is indecent. The standards of decency in the military are generally stricter than those in civilian life, reflecting the unique demands of military service.

Punishments for violating Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language can vary widely, depending on the severity of the offense and the circumstances. Potential penalties include reprimand, forfeiture of pay and allowances, reduction in rank, confinement, and even a dishonorable discharge.

The court-martial determines the specific punishment, considering factors such as the accused’s service record, the impact of the offense on the unit, and any mitigating circumstances. By regulating indecent language, the military aims to maintain a professional and respectful environment, which is essential for operational effectiveness and the integrity of the armed forces.

What are the Elements of Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language Communicated to any child under the age of 16 years?

  1. That (state the time and place alleged), the accused (orally) (in writing) communicated to (state the name of the alleged victim) certain language, to wit: (state the language alleged);
  2. That the language was indecent;
  3. That, under the circumstances, the conduct of the accused was (to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces) (of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces) (to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces or of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces); and
  4. That (state the name of the alleged victim) was a child under the age of 16 years.

What are the Elements of Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language Communicated to all others?

  1. That (state the time and place alleged), the accused (orally) (in writing) communicated to (state the name of the alleged victim) certain language, to wit: (state the language alleged);
  2. That the language was indecent; and
  3. That, under the circumstances, the conduct of the accused was (to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces) (of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces) (to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces or of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces).

What are the Maximum Punishments for Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language?

Maximum Punishment for Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language Communicated to any child under the age of 16 years committed between 1 Jan 2019 to 27 Dec 2023:

  • 2 Years of Confinement
  • Dishonorable Discharge, BCD, Dismissal
  • Total Forfeitures
  • Reduction to E-1
  • Collateral Consequences of a Federal Felony Conviction

Maximum Punishment for Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language Communicated to any child under the age of 16 years committed after 27 Dec 2023

  • Under the Sentencing Parameters, Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language is a Category 2 Offense – Confinement from 1-36 months (1 month to 3 years)
  • 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

Maximum Punishment for Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language Other cases committed between 1 Jan 2019 to 27 Dec 2023:

  • 6 Months of Confinement
  • BCD
  • Total Forfeitures
  • Reduction to E-1
  • Collateral Consequences of a Federal Conviction

Maximum Punishment for Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language Other cases committed after 27 Dec 2023

  • Under the Sentencing Parameters, Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language is a Category 1 Offense – Confinement from 0-12 months
  • BCD
  • Total Forfeitures
  • Reduction to E-1
  • Collateral Consequences of a Federal 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

Combined UCMJ Maximum Punishment Charts

Sample Specifications for Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language

Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language military defense attorneyIn that Brigader General Pedro Sanchez, US Air Force, did, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, on or about 2 May 2025, orally communicated to Julia Stein, a child under the age of 16 years, certain indecent language, to wit: “I will lick you like a lollipop,” and that such conduct was to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces and was of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.

Model Specifications for Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language

In that __________ (personal jurisdiction data), did, (at/on board—location), on or about __________, (orally) (in writing) communicated to __________, (a child under the age of 16 years), certain indecent language, to wit: __________, and that such conduct was (to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces) (of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces) (to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces and was of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces).

What are the Definitions for Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language?

“Communicated to” under Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language means that the language was made known to the person to whom it was directed.

“Indecent language” under Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language is that which is grossly offensive to modesty, decency, or propriety or shocks the moral sense because of its vulgar, filthy, or disgusting nature or its tendency to incite lustful thought. Language is indecent if it tends reasonably to corrupt morals or incite libidinous thoughts.

Community Standards and Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language

Under Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language, the language must violate community standards. “Community,” as used in this instruction, means the standards that apply to the military, not the accused’s unit. (However, the standards used in the accused’s unit may be considered for deciding whether the accused’s conduct was prejudicial to good order and discipline under the facts and circumstances presented.)

“Conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline” under Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language is conduct that causes a reasonably direct and obvious injury to good order and discipline.

“Service discrediting conduct” under Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language  is conduct that tends to harm the reputation of the service or lower its public esteem.)

Standards of Proof and under Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language

Not every use of language that is indecent constitutes an offense under the UCMJ. The government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt, by direct or circumstantial evidence, that the accused’s conduct was (prejudicial to good order and discipline in the armed forces) (or) (of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces).

Final Jury Instructions on Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language

You should consider all the relevant facts and circumstances (to include (where the conduct occurred) (the nature of the relationship between the accused, and (state the name of the alleged victim) (the effect, if any, upon the accused’s (or (state the name of the alleged victim or other individual alleged to have been affected) ability to perform military duties) (the effect the conduct may have had upon the morale or efficiency of the unit) (_________).

Legal References for under Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language

  • US v. Negron, 60 MJ 136 (CAAF 2004)
  • US v. Brinson, 49 MJ 360 (CAAF 1998)
  • US v. Hullett, 40 MJ 189 (CMA 1994)
  • US v. French, 31 MJ 57 (CMA 1990)

Selecting the Best Military Defense Lawyers for Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language Case

Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) encompasses a broad range of offenses that are not specifically detailed elsewhere in the code but which negatively impact good order and discipline or discredit the armed forces. One of the offenses under Article 134 is the use of “indecent language.”

Indecent language is defined as language that is grossly offensive to modesty, decency, or propriety and shocks the moral sense due to its vulgar, filthy, or obscene nature. This type of language is not protected under free speech within the military context because it can disrupt the professional environment, undermine authority, and negatively impact morale and cohesion among service members.

Legal Definition and Interpretation of Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language

Under Article 134, indecent language is interpreted according to its natural meaning and the context in which it is used. Determining indecent language can be subjective and relies on the circumstances surrounding its use, including the speaker’s setting, audience, and intent. For example, what might be considered indecent in a formal setting may differ from what is considered indecent in a more relaxed, private context.

Basics of Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language

To secure a conviction for indecent language under Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language, the prosecution must prove three essential elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. That the accused used certain language means the specific words or phrases in question must be clearly identified.
  2. That the language was indecent: The language must be offensive, obscene, or vulgar according to the community’s standards.
  3. Under these circumstances, the conduct was prejudicial to good order and discipline or of a nature that discredited the armed forces. This element emphasizes the context and impact of the language on military discipline and reputation.

Judicial Considerations for Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language

Military courts consider various factors when evaluating whether language is indecent under Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language. These factors include the nature of the words used, the relationship between the parties involved, the setting in which the language was used, and the potential impact on the unit or military environment. The courts also consider the prevailing standards of decency within the military community, which may be more stringent than those in civilian life.

Consequences of Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language

Conviction under Article 134 for indecent language can result in various penalties, depending on the severity of the offense and the circumstances. Possible punishments include reprimand, forfeiture of pay and allowances, reduction in rank, confinement, and even a dishonorable discharge. The specific punishment is determined by the court-martial. It is influenced by factors such as the accused’s service record, the impact of the offense on the unit, and any mitigating circumstances.

Impact on Military Discipline of Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language

The prohibition against indecent language maintains a professional and respectful environment within the military. By regulating language that is considered grossly offensive, the military seeks to preserve the integrity, discipline, and good order essential for operational effectiveness. Indecent language can erode trust, respect, and cohesion among service members, making addressing and penalizing such conduct under Article 134 imperative.

Hiring a Military Defense Lawyer for Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language

Article 134 UCMJ’s indecent language provision underscores the importance of maintaining a professional and respectful atmosphere within the military. By defining and penalizing language that is offensive to modesty and propriety, the military upholds standards of decency that are crucial for discipline and morale. This regulation reflects the unique requirements of military service, where the conduct of individuals directly impacts the effectiveness and reputation of the armed forces.

Examples of conduct that could constitute a violation of Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Languages:

  • Explicit Sexual Comments: Making overtly sexual comments or propositions to another person which are vulgar and offensive.
  • Lewd Jokes: Telling sexually explicit or vulgar jokes in the presence of others, creating an uncomfortable environment.
  • Obscene Gestures: Using hand gestures or body language to simulate sexual acts in an inappropriate context.
  • Sexual Harassment: Repeatedly making unwanted sexual advances or comments towards a subordinate or colleague.
  • Derogatory Remarks: Using vulgar and offensive language to insult or demean another person’s sexual orientation or gender.
  • Inappropriate Text Messages: Sending sexually explicit text messages or images to another person without their consent.
  • Sexually Suggestive Emails: Sending emails containing explicit sexual content or innuendos to colleagues.
  • Verbal Abuse: Using sexually charged language to abuse or intimidate another person verbally.
  • Offensive Social Media Posts: Posting sexually explicit or vulgar comments or images on social media platforms.
  • Public Indecency: Using loud, explicit sexual language in a public setting where others can hear.
  • Sexual Threats: Threatening someone with sexual violence or harm using explicit language.
  • Lewd Comments in the Workplace: Making sexually suggestive comments or jokes in the workplace creates a hostile environment.
  • Sexual Innuendos: Frequently using sexual innuendos in conversations, making others uncomfortable.
  • Graphic Descriptions: Providing explicit, detailed descriptions of sexual acts in a conversation where it is inappropriate.
  • Sexual Bragging: Bragging about sexual exploits or experiences explicitly and offensively.
  • Inappropriate Use of Profanity: Using sexually explicit profanity in everyday language, offending those around.
  • Sexual Rumors: Spreading false and explicit sexual rumors about another person.
  • Explicit Comments in Training: Making vulgar and explicit comments during a training session or briefing.
  • Inappropriate Comments to Minors: Making sexually explicit comments or jokes to or in the presence of minors.
  • Offensive Graffiti: Writing or drawing sexually explicit and vulgar content in public or shared spaces.
  • Sexually Explicit Stories: Sharing or narrating explicit sexual stories in an inappropriate setting.
  • Sexual Teasing: Teasing someone with sexually explicit language or jokes makes them uncomfortable.
  • Vulgar Language during Arguments: Using sexually explicit language during disputes or arguments to demean or intimidate.
  • Inappropriate Conversations: Engaging in sexually explicit conversations in settings where such discussions are inappropriate.
  • Indecent Proposals: Making sexually explicit proposals or suggestions to another person without their consent.

Each of these examples involves using language considered indecent under military standards, potentially undermining discipline and good order, and is thereby punishable under Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language.

Benefits of Hiring Military Defense Lawyers for Article 134 UCMJ Indecent Language Cases

Being accused of using indecent language under Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is a serious matter that can have significant consequences for a service member’s career and personal life. Calling a military defense lawyer is crucial for several reasons.

First, a military defense lawyer possesses specialized knowledge of the UCMJ and military legal proceedings. They understand the nuances of military law, which differ significantly from civilian law, and can provide expert guidance through the complexities of a court-martial. This expertise is essential for crafting a strong defense strategy tailored to the unique aspects of the military justice system.

Contact our Article 134 UCMJ Court Martial Lawyers

Second, a military defense lawyer can thoroughly investigate the accusation’s circumstances. This includes gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and examining the context in which the alleged indecent language was used. By understanding the full context, the lawyer can challenge the prosecution’s evidence and present a compelling case that the language was not indecent or that it was taken out of context.

Third, the potential penalties for a conviction under Article 134 can be severe, including reprimand, forfeiture of pay, reduction in rank, confinement, and dishonorable discharge. These consequences can impact a service member’s career, finances, and future opportunities. A military defense lawyer will work to mitigate these risks, seeking to reduce charges or secure a more favorable outcome.

Experienced Article 134 UCMJ Court Martial Lawyers

Additionally, a defense lawyer can provide essential support and advice throughout the legal process. Facing a court-martial can be a stressful and overwhelming experience, but having a knowledgeable advocate can help alleviate some of the burden. They can also negotiate on behalf of the accused, potentially reaching a plea deal that minimizes the impact on the service member’s life.

In conclusion, it is vital to contact a military defense lawyer when accused of using indecent language under Article 134 UCMJ. Their expertise, investigative skills, and ability to navigate the military justice system can significantly influence the case outcome, protecting the service member’s rights and future.

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