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Article 131b Obstructing justice

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Article 131b Obstructing Justice refers to the following elements of misconduct under the UCMJ:  Any person subject to this chapter who engages in conduct in the case of a certain person against whom the accused had reason to believe there were or would be criminal or disciplinary proceedings pending, with intent to influence, impede, or otherwise obstruct the due administration of justice shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

Article 131b Obstruction of justice in the military, like in civilian legal systems, involves actions or behaviors that interfere with the proper administration of justice. In the military context, this can encompass a range of actions that hinder or obstruct the investigation, prosecution, or adjudication of military offenses.

Is it easy to be charged with Article 131b?

The obstruction of justice charge is a newsworthy term that evokes thoughts of gangsters and other criminals. However, obstruction of justice happens in minor investigations when targets of an investigation speak to potential witnesses without understanding the gravity of these engagements.

Some examples of behavior considered Article 131b obstruction

Falsifying Evidence: Knowingly providing false information, documents, or testimony in military investigations, proceedings, or court-martials.

Witness Intimidation: Attempting to influence or intimidate witnesses, victims, or whistleblowers to prevent them from cooperating with investigations or testifying truthfully.

Destruction of Evidence: Destroying or concealing evidence that is relevant to a military investigation or court-martial.

False Reporting: Making false reports or statements with the intent to mislead or obstruct military authorities.

Failure to Report: Failing to report known violations or offenses to military authorities when required to do so.

Retaliation: Retaliating against individuals who have reported misconduct or cooperated with investigations.

Impeding Investigations: Interfering with the conduct of military investigations, whether by directly obstructing investigators or by taking actions that hinder their ability to gather evidence.

Tampering with Witnesses: Attempting to influence or coerce witnesses to provide false testimony or to withhold information.

Bribery or Corruption: Offering or accepting bribes, kickbacks, or other inducements to influence the outcome of military proceedings.

False Official Statements: Making false statements in official military documents, such as reports, records, or official statements.

What to do when charged with Article 131b

Investigation targets should speak to an experienced attorney before answering any investigator’s questions and refrain from conducting their own investigation to clear their name. Otherwise, they may find themselves with an Article 131b obstruction of justice charge.

Notable cases of Article 131b Obstruction of Justice

United States v. Lieutenant William Calley (My Lai Massacre, 1971): This infamous case involved the prosecution of Lieutenant William Calley for his role in the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War. Calley was convicted of multiple counts of murder, and obstruction of justice was one of the charges. He was found to have actively tried to cover up the massacre by giving false reports and attempting to prevent investigations.

United States v. Eddie Gallagher (2019): Navy SEAL Chief Edward “Eddie” Gallagher was accused of war crimes, including the murder of a captive ISIS fighter. During his court-martial, there were allegations of witness tampering and obstruction of justice by Gallagher and his supporters.

United States v. Scott Waddle (2001): Captain Scott Waddle, the commanding officer of the USS Greeneville, faced a court-martial following a collision between the submarine and a Japanese fishing vessel. Obstruction of justice charges were brought against Waddle for allegedly impeding the investigation into the incident.

These cases serve as examples of how obstruction of justice can arise in the military context and the serious consequences that can result from such actions. Each case had its unique circumstances and outcomes, but they all highlight the importance of upholding the principles of justice and integrity within the military.Top of Form

It’s important to note that military justice systems may have their own specific regulations and procedures governing these offenses, and penalties for obstruction of justice in the military can vary depending on the severity of the offense and the applicable laws and regulations.

Military personnel are typically subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) in the United States, which outlines offenses and penalties specific to the military. The specific definitions and consequences for obstruction of justice can vary by country and military branch. Military members who are accused of obstruction of justice are entitled to legal representation and due process in accordance with military law.

If you have been accused of obstruction of Justice, call today to discuss your case with our experienced military lawyer. Also read about our successful cases here and here.

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