There’s a lot that’s unknown about the murder of Fort Hood Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen. The motive behind her murder is currently reported as an extramarital affair, but that may never truly be understood since the man who was responsible for her murder took his own life.
While the case of Specialist Guillen is still being investigated, there are some things covered by the Uniform Code of Military Justice that are understood clearly in military life and apply no matter what state you reside in, including Minnesota.
Adultery is still a prosecutable offense under UCMJ, specifically article 134. If a service member is caught unprepared for prosecution, then it could be disastrous to their military career.
Here’s what you need to know about article 134 and the impact it could have on your life if you don’t have a qualified attorney familiar with military law to help guide you through the process in Minnesota.
What is Article 134?
Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice makes adultery a criminal act. However, certain elements must be proven in order to do that due to the fact that all parties are innocent until proven guilty.
In order for adultery to be proved under the UCMJ, prosecutors must prove:
- The service member accused of adultery was legally married to another at the time of the incident
- The service member accused wrongfully had sexual intercourse with someone specific
- Under the circumstances of the case, the conduct of the service member was bad enough to discredit the military itself, flying in the face of good order and discipline called for by the armed forces
It can be difficult to prove that a service member did indeed have sexual intercourse with a certain person unless a pregnancy resulted from the affair. Otherwise, that element relies heavily on the confession of one or both parties, photographic evidence, or a witness.
The last element can also be difficult to prove in court and is the reason many cases of adultery don’t move forward. It’s simply difficult to prove that the affair had a negative impact on the military as a whole.
However, if both people involved in the affair were in the military, then it can lead to a breakdown of unit cohesiveness, impacting the ability of the unit to function or serve as a hit to morale. In that case, it may be quite easy to show the impact the affair had on the military.
Winning the Case
Accusations of adultery in the military are not uncommon and they’re often difficult to prove. Prosecutors have quite a burden on them to prove that the affair occurred and that it discredited the military in some way.
Yet some service members do get prosecuted for this crime, which is where a robust defense is the only option forward.
Punishment for Article 134 Convictions
If convicted of adultery under article 134, it’s considered a serious offense. The maximum punishment for this offense is:
- Up to one year of confinement
- Punitive discharge from the military
- Forfeiture of all allowances and pay
It may seem as if this rule is outdated, but according to the military’s justice system, it isn’t. The military believes that discipline and order are crucial to its success. It’s vital for that appearance to be maintained at all times.
That’s why if a service member commits adultery and it becomes common knowledge, trust, and professionalism of all military institutions can be lost.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is an AV-Preeminent rated criminal and DWI defense attorney based in Minneapolis who is known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge and named a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law by the Minnesota Bar Association. Mr. Keyser is Lead Counsel rated, and he has received recognition for his criminal law work from Avvo, Expertise, Super Lawyers, The National Trial Lawyers, and more.