Major UCMJ Changes For 2019
In 2016, Congress passed many new sweeping reforms to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), however, they did not take effect until January 1st, 2019. Other offenses and UCMJ changes to the military process were included in the recently passed 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.
Biggest UCMJ Changes That Took Effect This Year
Any new recruits will be taught about the UCMJ when they enter military service. Here is what they are:
If someone commits a violent offense against a spouse, an intimate partner or an immediate family member or if they threaten or intimidate them they can now be punished at a court-martial. In Virginia, Domestic Violence is already punishable under state law. State and military prosecutors typically work together to decide where someone will be charged. Since the UCMJ is federal law, there is nothing to stop a service member from being charged by both the UCMJ and the state.
While adultery has been a crime in the military already, it has been replaced with “extra-marital sexual conduct.” The new offense broadens the definition of sexual intercourse, which now includes same-sex affairs. Prosecutors used to have to prove traditional intercourse to obtain a conviction but now oral sex as well as other activities are included.
Sex with Recruits
There will now be stiffer penalties for those who are convicted of abusing their authority over recruits and trainees. This would include recruiters, drill sergeants, as well as others in positions of special trust. This applies to officers and non-commissioned officers. The maximum sentence has also increased from two years to five years.
Credit Card Theft
If the theft is under $1,000, the maximum penalty changed from five to ten years. This would include exceeding one’s authorized usage in cases such as a Government Travel Card. If the theft is more than $1,000, the penalty has been increased to a maximum of 15 years. Credit card theft includes the fraudulent use of credit cards, debit cards, and other access devices in order to acquire anything of value.
Cyberstalking will now be considered a stalking offense. This will encompass a broad range of conduct that involves placing another person in fear for their safety, which will include the fear of sexual assault.
Stolen Valor will now have a penalty of a maximum of one-year confinement, up from six months. There will also be forfeiture of pay and a bad-conduct discharge given. Stolen Valor is considered wearing unauthorized medals of valor. These medals of valor include:
- the Medal of Honor
- the Distinguished Service Cross
- the Silver Star
- the Purple Heart
- or any other valor device.
The penalty for wearing any other unauthorized medal is still six months.
If someone reports a crime or a protected communication to authorities, they will be protected from retaliation.
If someone receives an adverse personnel action for reprisal that can get the person in authority up to three years confinement without pay, and a dishonorable discharge.
In the event someone retaliates against someone who is planning to report a crime, that is also against the new UCMJ changes.
They have clarified the definition of consent. The new definition is to reinforce that if submission happens because of the use of force, threat of force or placing another individual in fear, that will not constitute consent.
This change will clarify the distinction between sexual harassment and sexual assault. The definition of “sexual content” will now only include specific areas of the body, instead of touching any area with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person. It is only considered sexual assault if someone makes contact with designated areas of another person’s body.
The definition of burglary has been changed with the new UCMJ changes. Breaking and entering any building or structure, anytime, with the intent to commit any offense is now the definition of burglary. Previously burglary was limited to just breaking and entering the home of another in the nighttime.