Article 121 UCMJ - Larceny and Wrongful Appropriation
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Beyond the federal and state laws that every U.S. citizen must adhere to, members of each United States military branch are governed by an additional, distinct set of legal standards. These unique regulations are outlined in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, often referred to as the UCMJ. The UCMJ is a comprehensive compilation of articles that define various military orders, regulations, and offenses, detailing the specific consequences for breaches of these standards.
In the text below, esteemed military defense attorney Aden Wilkie of the Wilkie Law Firm delves into the nuances of Article 121 of the UCMJ, which addresses both Larceny and Wrongful Appropriation, highlighting the definitions, elements, and potential repercussions for military members found in violation of this article.
What is Article 121 of the UCMJ?
Article 121 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (10 U.S.C. 921) covers the offenses of larceny and wrongful appropriation. Below, we’ll provide the exact text of the statute as found in the Manual for Courts-Martial.
(a) Any person subject to this chapter who wrongfully takes, obtains, or withholds, by any means, from the possession of the owner or of any other person any money, personal property, or article of value of any kind –
- With intent permanently to deprive or defraud another person of the use and benefit of property or to appropriate it to his own use or the use of any person other than the owner, steals that property and is guilty of larceny; or
- With intent temporarily to deprive or defraud another person of the use and benefit of property or to appropriate it to his own use or the use of any person other than the owner, is guilty of wrongful appropriation.
(b) Any person found guilty of larceny or wrongful appropriation shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.
Below are some examples that may constitute larceny in a military setting:
- Theft of military property
- Theft of personal items from barracks
- Selling stolen military property
- Stealing from the PX (Post Exchange)
- Theft of military funds
- Stealing from a fellow service member
- Theft of classified documents
- Stealing rations or supplies
Wrongful Appropriation Examples
Below are some examples of wrongful appropriation as they might occur in a military setting:
- Unauthorized use of a fellow service member’s personal Item
- Taking a military motor vehicle or fellow service member’s personal vehicle for a joyride
- Borrowing equipment for personal use without permission
- Using someone’s computer without permission
- Temporary use of personal goods
- Using military tools for personal projects
- Taking personal items that don’t belong to you from the lost and found
- Borrowing uniform items without permission
Military Property vs. Personal Property
In the context of this article, there’s a clear distinction between military property and personal property. Military property refers to any property, including funds, that are owned by the U.S. government or that are under the custody or control of the U.S. armed services. This may include equipment, vehicles, weapons, uniforms, funds allocated for missions, and other assets belonging to or assigned to the military.
On the other hand, personal property refers to items owned by individual service members or civilians, such as personal clothing, vehicles, electronics, jewelry, or any other personal belongings.
While Article 121 of the UCMJ treats theft or unauthorized taking of both military and personal property as punishable offenses, the specific consequences may differ based on the nature and value of the property, as well as its importance to the mission or the personal well-being of the owner.
Elements of UCMJ Article 121
In military law, like in civilian law, certain elements must be met for a service member to be convicted of a crime. Below are the required elements for larceny and wrongful appropriation charges under UCMJ Article 121.
As prescribed by the MCM, the elements required for larceny charges under Article 121 include:
- The accused wrongfully took, obtained, or withheld certain property from the possession of the owner or any other person;
- The stolen property belonged to a certain person;
- The stolen property was of a certain value;
- The taking, obtaining, or withholding by the accused was with the intent to permanently deprive or defraud another person of the use and benefit of the property or to permanently appropriate the property for the use of the accused or for any other person other than the rightful owner.
If the property acquired is alleged to be military property, then the fact that it was military property would also be a required element.
The elements required for wrongful appropriation charges under Article 121 include the following:
- The accused wrongfully took, obtained, or withheld certain property from the possession of the owner or of any other person;
- The property belonged to a certain person;
- The property was of a certain value;
- The taking, obtaining, or withholding by the accused was with the intent to temporarily deprive or defraud another person of the use and benefit of the property or temporarily to appropriate the property for the use of the accused or for any person other than the rightful owner.
UCMJ Article 121 Punishment
As mentioned above, the penalties for violating Article 121 of the UCMJ depend on the value of the stolen or appropriated property as well as if the property is considered personal or military/government property. Below, we’ll list the maximum punishments for both offenses in regard to the value and ownership of the stolen or appropriated property.
If the property is valued at $1,000 or less, the maximum punishment may include a bad-conduct discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for up to 1 year.
If the property is considered to be military property valued at more than $1,000 or is a military motor vehicle, aircraft, vessel, firearm, or explosive, the maximum punishment is a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for up to 10 years.
Theft of property other than military property valued at more than $1,000 or any of the items listed above (motor vehicle, aircraft, firearm, etc.) warrants a punishment of dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for up to 5 years.
Wrongful Appropriation Punishment
If the property is valued at $1,000 or less, convicted service members may face confinement for up to 3 months and the forfeiture of two-thirds pay per month for 3 months.
If the property is of a value of more than $1,000, penalties may include a bad-conduct discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for up to 1 year.
The wrongful appropriation of any motor vehicle, aircraft, vessel, firearm, explosive, or military property valued at more than $1,000, the accused service member may face dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for up to 2 years.
Military Defense Attorney for UCMJ Article 121 Violations
Individuals who are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and who are deemed guilty of breaching any provision within the code face severe repercussions. Such consequences can endanger everything they have tirelessly worked for throughout their military career. Given the gravity of these situations, it is crucial for those charged under Article 121 to secure legal representation from an experienced defense attorney at the earliest possible opportunity.
By equipping the help of the Wilkie Law Firm, you guarantee a fierce and relentless defense against the allegations made against you. Aden Wilkie and his team will ensure that all of your rights are aggressively defended from the outset of the investigation until the conclusion of your court-martial trial. A seasoned North Carolina criminal defense attorney, Aden Wilkie will meticulously construct a strong defense strategy with the intent of creating reasonable doubt about your alleged violations, thereby aiming to mitigate or even avoid the harsh penalties you may be facing.
Aden Wilkie’s commitment to his clients extends beyond just courtroom defense. He also offers services aimed at correcting military records and provides counsel on military discharge upgrades. Strategically based in Jacksonville, NC, Aden Wilkie serves the military personnel stationed at Camp Lejeune and Fort Bragg, along with other military installations, bases, and posts across the country. For comprehensive legal support and to understand more about how the Wilkie Law Firm can assist you, contact (910) 333-9626 or fill out our online intake form today.