Military Hazing

Defense Attorney for Hazing in the Military

Military Hazing Attorney

The United States Armed Forces has a long tradition of initiation customs. They have been an important part of the military culture for generations. They serve as a way to welcome new members and mark rites of passage. Many believe that these shared experiences of hardship during initiation rites contribute to better group commitment and dependency. However, regulations on military hazings have become more widespread and complex in the years since September 11. 

We all know that in order to serve your country in any branch of the military, you must meet high standards of physical fitness. Each branch of the military has an established formal, community-specific indoctrination process. Military members must meet standards of not only physical fitness, but also marksmanship, conduct, and competence. This is in order to be accepted and retained. Servicemen and servicewomen must often undergo physically and mentally rigorous training. This is often difficult for new recruits. Sometimes in early training, the line between acceptable behavior and excessively punishing behavior such as hazing can occur. 

Many members may support acts of hazing performed by and on others. This is because it permits the identification and removal of free riders. Free riders are those who take the benefits of group membership without paying for them. Some groups use hazing to ensure members remain committed to the group and expel people that do not support the rest of the squad. 

Sometimes recruits might participate in certain activities that military regulations prohibit in order to prove they belong. Advocates of these customs justify them by highlighting the differences between civilian and military culture.

If you need a military hazing attorney, look no further than Aden Wilkie of the Wilkie Law Firm. Located in Jacksonville, Wilkie serves the entire state of North Carolina as well as its surrounding states. He is also able to service any military installation located in the United States, but travel fees will apply.

Hazing FAQs

It can be difficult to find a clear definition of hazing anywhere within military laws and doctrines. DoD and the services as well as multiple states, organizations, and research institutions have established their own definitions of hazing. However, there are many inconsistencies between all of these definitions. This has led to a lot of confusion as to what actions constitute hazing and what actions do not.

We are still waiting for a publicized, clear definition of hazing in the military. The DoD developed its own definition in 1997, and each of the military branches use this definition. However, each branch slightly modifies their definition, which often contributes to a lot of confusion. According to the DoD definition, hazing is when any military member, regardless of service or rank does any of the following without proper authority.

  • Causes another member to suffer or be exposed to any activity that is:
    • Cruel
    • Abusive
    • Humiliating
    • Oppressive
    • Demeaning, or
    • Harmful
  • Soliciting or coercing another member to perpetrate any such activity

Hazing does not need to involve physical contact among military members, it can be verbal or psychological. This could include some of the following:

  • Playing abusive tricks
  • Threatening or coercing violence 
  •  

Other common—yet in some cases, forbidden— activities include:

      • Tattooing
      • Shaving
      • Greasing
      • Painting
      • Pinning
      • “Tacking on”
      • “Blood wings.”

Just because the definitions of hazing are unclear does not mean that you deserve to lose your military benefits based on the overreach of a few overzealous prosecutors. Speak to an aggressive military defense attorney if you are facing hazing charges.

Historically, UCMJ Article 93 was used to charge sexual harassment offenses. However, Article 93 is not just for these types of cases. Sometimes it is used to punish assaults and improper punishments. In order for someone to be punished according to UCMJ Article 93, the prosecution must prove that the victim suffered maltreatment. The cruelty, oppression, or maltreatment is to be measured by an objective standard. These standards include:

  • The victim was subject to orders of the accused.
  • The accused was cruel toward, oppressed, or maltreated by that person. 

An objective standard, in this case, is nearly impossible. A lot of these cases involve hearsay, or your words against your accuser. Although these cases can be intimidating or difficult to defend, Aden Wilkie does not shy away from them.

The first step is to learn as much as possible about the accuser. Often Article 93 cases tend to involve allegations of sexual harassment within a senior-subordinate relationship. Because of this, there is plenty of opportunity to investigate the alleged victim’s conduct with that senior/subordinate relationship. In constructing your defense, we will look at the following: 

  • The alleged victim’s prior history in complaining about their seniors and superiors.
  • His or her mental health history.
    • Mood disorders
    • Anxiety disorders
    • Personality disorder
  • Personal stressors in the alleged victim’s life which may have caused him or her to misinterpret valid duties as being oppressive, cruel, or mistreatment.
  • Evidence that the relationship between the alleged victim and superior was consensual.
  • The extent to which the alleged victim perceived a personality conflict with the accused 
    • This means that the alleged victim might have perceived a justified punishment and took it personally
  • Evidence that other subordinates were subjected to similar treatment. They did not perceive the treatment as cruel, oppressive, or maltreatment.
  • Statements from other members of the unit who may or may not have observed the alleged misconduct. Alternatively, peers in a unit will be the best source of an honest assessment of the character and credibility of the accuser(s).

Unit commanders have the ultimate authority to adjudicate hazing incidents as they see fit. This can include nonjudicial punishment, such as reduction in grade or extra duty. 

The maximum punishment under UCMJ Article 93 is a punitive discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for up to 3 years. 

Do not let this intimidate you. Due to the vague definitions of hazing in the military, it can be difficult to pin down whether or not the alleged offense constituted hazing. 

No matter what, remember to always avoid posting to social media about anything involving your case. Also, do not make any contact whatsoever with your accuser. 

And above all else, before you ever make any statements in the face of any allegations, call Aden Wilkie and discuss the matter with him before you discuss it with your chain of command, barracks buddy, law enforcement, or a command investigator. Even if you are innocent of any and all allegations, it is always best to get advice and make an informed decision before saying anything that could be used against you and your interests.

Contact a Military Hazing Defense Attorney

You need an attorney with the skills and experience necessary to defend your case and achieve the best possible outcome. Aden Wilkie is not afraid of any case. He is ready to learn everything about your case and investigate the accuser’s claims. The Devil Dog Defender can and will construct the strongest defense for your case. Located in Jacksonville, NC, he services armed forces at Camp Lejeune and Fort Bragg as well as other bases, camps, stations, and posts in the U.S. Do not leave your military career hanging in the balance – contact Aden Wilkie online or call 910-333-9626 today.

This information is intended to educate and help you better understand the process and is not meant as a substitute for the personalized advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney.