Many individuals do not understand that the military has its own laws in place and believe that any form of treatment can be handed out to members-cruel or otherwise-and there is nothing the service member can do except grin and bear it. This is certainly not the case and there are precise laws in place to prevent cruelty and maltreatment.
Any individual, regardless of rank or position, who is charged with cruelty, oppression, or maltreatment of any of his subordinates will find himself in a court martial proceeding.
This law is for the protection of any individual who is compelled to follow the orders of the individual accused of the offence. The treatment doesn’t always have to be of a physical nature, but there are standards by which the nature of the offence will be compared. Examples that may come under this section of charges would be improper punishment, assault, and sexual harassment.
Quite often an individual's perception of a simple assault can be quite misleading. In respect to military law, there are three areas addressed by this offence. These are by offer, by attempt, or by battery. By having a basic understanding of these three areas, individuals might think twice before acting out and landing themselves into trouble.
By Offer: If an individual thinks that something that someone is doing, or not doing, is going to mean having some type of force applied against him, then this is an assault by offer. This holds true only if the person is led to believe this by the intention or negligence of the other person. In order for the offense to have been committed it does not mean that the act suspected by the individual is even carried out. In this case, it is definitely the thought that counts.
So really, what constitutes leading one to believe that they are going to be physically harmed? To begin with, the actions leading one to believe they are in harm's way do not have to be factual. For example, if one person points an unloaded gun at another, and the person the gun is being pointed at was under the belief that the gun was loaded, then the person with the gun has committed assault even if he was only joking.
If the victim really knows that no harm is intended then this is not assault by offer. The victim's perspective that he really is being threatened with harm must be a reasonable perception.
Assault by attempt: Threatening words or threats of harm being eminent in the future are not considered assault. There has to be something to lead one to believe that they are going to suffer bodily harm. For example, if someone was to strike out at a victim, but they were not within distance of contact, it would still be assault because the potential to inflict harm was there. One would think that based on this, if an individual were to fire a pistol over another person's head, the shooter would be charged. If there was no intent to cause harm then this would not be the case.
Assault by Battery: The most commonly understood aspect of assault is that where force or violence is carried out by one party on another. It goes further than that, though. Even offensive touching can be presumed as an assault. For example, kissing someone that did not give their permission. There have even been examples of unnecessary exposure to radiation being classed as sufficient physical touching.
Sometimes knowing a little about the law can be more detrimental than knowing nothing at all. Many individuals who thought they knew what assault was had no idea that when charged with an offense, the act they carried out came under such an area of the law as assault.
Evolution of Military Law in the United States
Perhaps the misinformed conception of the laws pertaining to this offence came about because of the general mindset of the members of the military. Some may have thought that enduring cruelty and maltreatment was all part of the training. There may have been others that were afraid to step forward for fear of repercussions from fellow members. In any event, that type of attitude has changed over the last several years. Most of the members fully realize the hardships of the training involved but are also aware that cruelty and maltreatment are not condoned or tolerated by military law.
There may also be some misunderstanding as to what sexual harassment consists of. The following are some prime examples of sexual harassment, although the list is not all-inclusive, and of course each case depends on its own circumstances.
- Deliberate or offensive comments
- Offensive gestures that suggest they are of a sexual nature
- Threats against the career, wages or employment of an individual in return for sexual favors.
Individuals that are found guilty under Article 93 can receive a dishonorable discharge, one year’s confinement, and be compelled to forfeit pay and allowances. If it is deemed to be a lesser included offence, then it would come under the jurisdiction of Article 80.
These laws have been put in place to protect every member from the type of treatment outlined here. It is important that all those subject to military rule and regulation understand what their rights are, and a Military Law Lawyer will help with that.