Theft in the military: It’s a Serious Crime

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Theft, robbery, or burglary charges can be devastating to your military career. A military service member who uses another person’s property without their authorization to lastingly or provisionally defraud them of that property will be slapped with theft charges according to the Article 121 of UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice). In the event that you are convicted of these charges, you may face the following.

  • Harsh sentencing which may leave you locked up for years
  • Misconduct or even a dishonorable charge
  • Your military health care, salary, and pension may be taken away at once.

With each passing day, the threat of conviction increases. So, it’s advisable to contact a court-martial attorney to understand your legal options. Your attorney will also represent you during court proceedings.

Article 121 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice

Under article 121, two criminal offenses are defined each with its specific elements.

Larceny

  • The defendant wrongfully obtained or withheld certain property from the owner
  • The stolen property has its rightful owner
  • The stolen property was of some value
  • The wrongful possession of the property by the defendant was with the intention of permanently depriving another person or the owner of the use and the advantage of the property

Wrongful appropriation

  • The defendant unlawfully obtained or withheld certain property from the owner
  • The stolen property has its rightful owner
  • The stolen property was of meaningful value
  • The wrongful possession of the property by the defendant was with the intention of provisionally depriving another person or the owner of the use and the advantage of the property.

Punishment for Theft

Note that both larceny and wrongful appropriation carry their separate maximum offense.

Larceny

If it involves military property, the maximum penalty may include:

  • Reduction to E-1
  • Forfeiture of salary and allowances
  • A dishonorable discharge
  • 10 years imprisonment

If it involves, non-military property, the maximum penalty may include:

  • Reduction to E-1
  • Forfeiture of salary and allowances
  • A dishonorable discharge
  • 6 years imprisonment

Wrongful appropriation

For military property, punishment may include:

  • Reduction to E-1
  • Forfeiture of salary and allowances
  • A dishonorable discharge
  • 2 years imprisonment

 For non-military property, punishment may include:

  • Reduction to E-1
  • Forfeiture of salary and allowances
  • A dishonorable discharge
  • 6 months imprisonment

Service members who get arrested because of theft charges can be tried either on or off base. If you’re apprehended on base, your case can be prosecuted on base. The defendant may get legal representation from the base’s Area Defense Counsel (ADC). Alternatively, you can hire a private court-martial attorney who’s familiar with the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) because your theft charges will be based under that specific body of law.

If you’re apprehended off base, you could benefit from legal representation from a defense attorney who’s well-versed with the law and procedures for whichever state is prosecuting you.

Don’t allow accusations of theft to destroy your military service career and impact negatively on your civilian future. You can fight back with the help of a court-martial attorney against theft charges under Article 121.