UCMJ Article 134 FRATERNIZATION or Fraternizing
The military services consider fraternization as a disproportionally familiar personal relationship between an officer and an enlisted member where the relationship does not respect rank or grade difference between the two members, otherwise known as fraternizing. If the military finds a relationship between an officer and enlisted member brings discredit on the service or prejudicial to good order and discipline, the service considers that relationship to be in violation of Article 134 Fraternization or potentially Article 92 Fraternization.
All the services prohibit inappropriate relationships that hew to Article 92 Fraternization or Article 134 Fraternization, but acceptable conduct varies between the services based on differences in custom and tradition.
The U.S. Army standard for what constitutes an inappropriate leader-subordinate relationship is listed in AR 600-20 4-14b which states, relationships, (both opposite-gender and same-gender) are prohibited if they: — Compromise, or appear to compromise, the integrity of supervisory authority or the chain of command; — Cause actual or perceived partiality or unfairness; — Involve, or appear to involve, the improper use of rank or position for personal gain; — Are, or are perceived to be, exploitative or coercive in nature; — Create an actual or clearly predictable adverse impact on discipline, authority, morale or the ability of the command to accomplish its mission.
The Navy prohibits personal and business relationships between officers and enlisted members because they consider them prejudicial to good order and discipline. These personal relationships can include dating, cohabitation and any sexual relationship. The Navy also prohibits business relationships where members borrow from or loan to each other money or own businesses together. The Navy policy also covers relationships between enlisted members and between officers. It puts chiefs (E-7 through E-9) in a separate personnel category and prohibits them from personal relationships with enlisted members E-1 through E-6 in the same command. Navy personnel are subject to these rules regardless of the other person’s service affiliation or service rules.
The USMC Marine Corps Manual section 1100 Military Leadership states that prejudice to good order and discipline or discredit to the Marine Corps may result from any circumstance which calls into question a senior’s objectivity, results in actual or 1100 Marine Corp Manual-apparent preferential treatment, undermines the authority of the senior, or compromises the chain of command.
General guidelines from USAF Instruction 36-2909 state while personal relationships between Air Force members are normally matters of individual choice and judgment, they become matters of official concern when they adversely affect or have the reasonable potential to adversely affect the Air Force by eroding morale, good order, discipline, respect for authority, unit cohesion, or mission accomplishment.
If any of the service criteria for fraternization are met, the parties involved may be subject to Uniformed Code of Military Justice action under Article 92 or Article 134 as a violation of a lawful general regulation. Fraternizing can be a career killer.
The maximum possible punishments for being convicted of Fraternization, as a violation or failure to obey lawful general order or regulation, is dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for two years. However most service members suspected of fraternization generally face lesser dispositions such as a Letter of Reprimand, General officer Memorandum of Reprimand and, potentially, an enlisted separation board or an officer show cause board or “Board of Inquiry“. These administrative boards can result in dismissal from the service.
Each of the military services has created regulations, directives, and orders that govern conduct between personnel of different ranks. In 1999 and 2000, each of the services conducted a review of their respective rules governing fraternization and attempted to create uniformity among the service branches. Fraternization is sometimes charged as a violation of Article 92, failure to obey an order or regulation.
(1) That the accused was a commissioned or warrant officer;
(2) That the accused fraternized on terms of military equality with one or more certain enlisted member(s) in a certain manner;
(3) That the accused then knew the person(s) to be (an) enlisted member(s);
(4) That such fraternization violated the custom of the accused’s service that officers shall not fraternize with enlisted members on terms of military equality; and
(5) That, under the circumstances, the conduct of the accused was to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces or was of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.
For more information on this offense including the maximum punishment, potential defenses, and a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the prosecution’s case, consult with an experienced military lawyer. No matter where you are stationed in the world, you can contact my office at +(757) 504-2815 or through our convenient online form to schedule a free consultation.
Attorney Peter Kageleiry, Jr. focuses his legal practice exclusively on military court-martial law and related adverse administrative actions including allegations of fraternizing.
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