Military law in the United States has undergone drastic changes throughout our country's history.
Prior to 1951, there were separate and distinct criminal justice systems operated by each of the military
service branches. During World War II, 16 million men and women served in the armed forces of this
nation. Of those, approximately two million faced courts-martial. Post-war legislators
determined that too many veterans had been punished by commanders who misused the power afforded by their
rank. With the advice of legal experts, a new "Uniform Code of Military Justice" was created.
Public Law 81-506 greatly improved the military justice system. Passed by Congress on 5 May 1950,
it was signed into law by President Dwight David Eisenhower, effective 31 May 1951. The Uniform Code
of Military Justice superseded the Articles of War, Articles for the Government of the Navy, and the
Disciplinary Laws of the Coast Guard. (At the time the law was drafted, there were no separate
articles governing the Air Force or the Marine Corps.) All branches of service now have to operate
under the UCMJ, which has a myriad of safeguards for accused persons. Included in these safeguards is
the existence of Boards of Review, as well as military attorneys who can be retained to protect the rights
of the accused.
It should be noted that there are special provisions in the UCMJ that come into effect in "time of war."
For instance, certain offenses can only occur during time of war (such as improper use of a countersign or
spying). Other offenses (such as desertion) are strengthened during time of war as well. In some
cases, the statute of limitations can also be extended in time of war.
In 1968 and 1983, the UCMJ underwent significant revisions. The full text of the UCMJ can be found
on the following website:
"Rocks and Shoals"
The military slang term "Rocks and Shoals" refers to the Articles for the Government of the United States
Navy. The laws set forth in the articles of this document served as a legal guideline to govern the
members of the US Navy and the US Marine Corps prior to Public Law 81-506 going into effect. Courtesy
of the Department of the Navy, Naval Historical Center, 805 Kidder Breese SE, Washington Navy Yard,
Washington, DC 20374-5060, the full text of the now defunct Articles for the Government of the United States
Navy appear below.
Articles for the Government of the United States Navy, 1930
Department of the Navy -- Bureau of Navigation
United States Government Printing Office, Washington DC: 1932
The Navy of the United States shall be governed by the following articles:
The commanders of all fleets, squadrons, naval stations, and vessels belonging to the Navy are required
to show in themselves a good example of virtue, honor, patriotism, and subordination; to be vigilant in
inspecting the conduct of all persons who are placed under their command; to guard against and suppress all
dissolute and immoral practices; and to correct, according to the laws and regulations of the Navy, all
persons who are guilty of them; and any such commander who offends against this article shall be punished as
a court-martial may direct.
The commanders of vessels and naval stations to which chaplains are attached shall cause divine service
to be performed on Sunday whenever the weather and other circumstances allow it to be done; and it is
earnestly recommended to all officers, seamen, and others in the naval service diligently to attend at every
performance of the worship of Almighty God.
Any irreverent or unbecoming behavior during divine service shall be punished as a general or summary
court-martial may direct.
The punishment of death, or such other punishment as a court martial may adjudge, may be inflicted on any
person in the naval service
- Who makes, or attempts to make, or unites with any mutiny or mutinous assembly, or, being witness to
or present at any mutiny does not do his utmost to suppress it;
- or, knowing of any mutinous assembly or of any intended mutiny, does not immediately communicate his
knowledge to his superior or commanding officer; Or disobeys the lawful orders of his superior officers;
- Or strikes or assaults, or attempts or threatens to strike or assault, his superior officer while in
the execution of the duties of his office;
- Or gives any intelligence to, or holds or entertains any intercourse with, an enemy or rebel, without
leave from the President, the Secretary of the Navy, the commander in chief of the fleet, the commander of
the squadron, or, in case of a vessel acting singly, from his commanding officer;
- Or receives any message or letter from an enemy or rebel, or, being aware of the unlawful reception of
such message or letter, fails to take the earliest opportunity to inform his superior or commanding
- Or, in time of war, deserts or entices others to desert;
- Or, in time of war, deserts or betrays his trust, or entices or aids others to desert or betray their
- Or, sleeps upon his watch;
- Or leaves his station before being regularly relieved;
- Or intentionally or willfully suffers any vessel of the Navy to be stranded, or run upon rocks or
shoals, or improperly hazarded or maliciously or willfully injures any vessel of the Navy, or any part of
her tackle, armament, or equipment, whereby the safety the vessel is hazarded or the lives of the crew
exposed to danger.
- Or unlawfully sets on fire, or otherwise unlawfully destroys any public property not at the time in
possession of an enemy, pirate or rebel;
- Or strikes or attempts to strike the flag to an enemy or rebel without proper authority, or, when
engaged in battle, treacherously yields or pusillanimously cries for quarter;
- Or, in time of battle, displays cowardice, negligence, or disaffection, or withdraws from or keeps out
of danger to which he should expose himself;
- Or, in time of battle, deserts his duty or station, or entices others to do so;
- Or does not properly observe the orders of his commanding officer, and use his utmost exertions to
carry them into execution when ordered to prepare for or join in, or when actually engaged in, battle, or
while in sight of an enemy;
- Or, being in command of a fleet, squadron, or vessel acting singly, neglects, when an engagement is
probable, or when an armed vessel of an enemy or rebel is in sight, to prepare and clear his ship or ships
- Or does not, upon signal for battle, use his utmost exertions to join in battle;
- Or fails to encourage in his own person, his inferior officers and men to fight courageously;
- Or does not do his utmost to overtake and capture or destroy any vessel which it is his duty to
- Or does not afford all practicable relief and assistance to vessels belonging to the United States or
their allies when engaged in battle.
All persons who, in time of war or of rebellion against the supreme authority of the United States, come
or are found in the capacity of spies, or who bring, or deliver any seducing letter or message from an enemy
or rebel, or endeavor to corrupt any person in the Navy to betray his trust, shall suffer death, or such
other punishment as a court-martial may adjudge.
If any person belonging to any public vessel of the United States commits the crime of murder without the
territorial jurisdiction thereof, he may be tried by court-martial and punished with death.
A naval court-martial may adjudge the punishment of imprisonment for life, or for a stated term, at hard
labor, in any case where it is authorized to adjudge the punishment of death; and such sentences of
imprisonment and hard labor may be carried into execution in any prison or penitentiary under the control of
the United States, or which the United States may be allowed by the legislature of any State to use; and
persons so imprisoned in the prison or penitentiary of any State or Territory shall be subject in all
respects to the same discipline and treatment as convicts sentenced by the courts of the State or Territory
in which the same may be situated.
Such punishment as a court-martial may adjudge may be inflicted on any person in the Navy --
- Who is guilty of profane swearing, falsehood, drunkenness, gambling, fraud, theft, or any other
scandalous conduct tending to the destruction of good morals;
- Or is guilty of cruelty toward or oppression or maltreatment of any person subject to his orders;
- Or quarrels with, strikes, or assaults, or uses provoking or reproachful words, gestures, or menaces
toward any person in the Navy;
- Or endeavors to foment quarrels between other persons in the Navy;
- Or sends or accepts a challenge to fight a duel or acts as a second in a duel;
- Or treats his superior officer with contempt, or is disrespectful to him in language or deportment,
while in the execution of his office;
- Or joins in or abets any combination to weaken the lawful authority of or lessen the respect due to
his commanding officer;
- Or utters any seditious or mutinous words;
- Or is negligent or careless in obeying orders or culpably inefficient in the performance of duty;
- Or does not use his best exertions to prevent the unlawful destruction of public property by others;
- Or, through inattention or negligence, suffers any vessel of the Navy to be stranded, or run upon a
rock or shoal, or hazarded;
- Or, when attached to any vessel appointed as convoy to any merchant or other vessels, fails diligently
to perform his duty, or demands or exacts any compensation for his services, or maltreats the officers or
crews of such merchant or other vessels;
- Or takes, receives, or permits to be received, on board the vessel to which he is attached any goods
or merchandise for freight, sale, or traffic, except gold, silver, or jewels for freight or safe-keeping;
or demands or receives any compensation for the receipt or transportation of any other article than gold,
silver, or jewels without authority from the President or Secretary of the Navy;
- Or knowingly makes or signs, or aids, abets, directs, or procures the making or signing of, any false
- Or wastes any ammunition, provisions, or other public property, or, having power to prevent it,
knowingly permits such waste;
- Or, when on shore, plunders, abuses, or maltreats any inhabitant or injures his property in any way;
- Or refuses or fails to use his utmost exertions to detect, apprehend, and bring to punishment all
offenders, or to aid all persons appointed for that purpose;
- Or, when rated or acting as master-at-arms, refuses to receive such prisoners as may be committed to
his charge, or, having received them, suffers them to escape, or dismisses them without orders from the
- Or is absent from his station or duty without leave or after his leave has expired;
- Or violates or refuses obedience to any lawful general order or regulation issued by the Secretary of
- Or, in time of peace, deserts or attempts to desert, or aids and entices others to desert;
- Or receives or entertains any deserter from any other vessel of the Navy, knowing him to be such, and
does not, with all convenient speed, give notice of such deserter to the commander of the vessel to which
he belongs, or to the commander in chief, or to the commander of the squadron.
Any officer who absents himself from his command without leave may, by the sentence of a court-martial,
be reduced to the rating of seaman, second class.
Any commissioned officer of the Navy or Marine Corps who, having tendered his resignation, quits his post
or proper duties without leave and with intent to remain permanently absent therefrom, prior to due notice
of the acceptance of such resignation, shall be deemed and punished as a deserter.
No person in the naval service shall procure stores or other articles or supplies for, and dispose
thereof to, the officers or enlisted men on vessels of the Navy or at navy yards or naval stations for his
own account or benefit.
No person connected with the Navy shall, under any pretense, import in a public vessel any article which
is liable to the payment of duty.
Distilled spirits shall be admitted on board of vessels of war only upon the order and under the control
of the medical officers of such vessels and to be used only for medical purposes
Fine and imprisonment, or such other punishment as a court martial may adjudge, shall be inflicted upon
any person in the naval service of the United States--
- Who presents or causes to be, presented to any person in the civil, military, or naval service
thereof, for approval or payment, any claim against the United States or any officer thereof knowing such
claim to be false or fraudulent;
- or Who enters into any agreement or conspiracy to defraud the United States by obtaining, or aiding
others to obtain, the allowance, or pay of any false or fraudulent claim;
- or Who, for the purpose of obtaining or aiding others to obtain, the approval, allowance, or payment
of any claim against the United States or against any officer thereof, makes or uses, or procures or
advises the making or use of, any writing, or other paper, knowing the same to contain any false or
- or Who, for the purpose of obtaining, or aiding others to obtain, the approval, allowance, or payment
of any claim against the United States or any officer thereof, makes, or procures, or advises the making
of, any oath to any fact or to any writing or other paper knowing such oath to be false;
- or Who, for the purpose of obtaining, or aiding others to obtain, the approval, allowance, or payment
of any claim against the United States or any officer thereof, forges or counterfeits, or procures or
advises the forging or counterfeiting of, any signature upon any writing or other paper, or uses, or
procures or advises the use of, any such signature, knowing the same to be forged or counterfeited;
- or Who, having charge, possession, custody, or control of any money or other property of the United
States, furnished or intended for the naval service thereof, knowingly delivers, or causes to be
delivered, to any person having authority to receive the same, any amount thereof less than that for which
he receives a certificate or receipt;
- or Who, being authorized to make or deliver any paper certifying the receipt of any money or other
property of the United States, furnished or intended for the naval service thereof, makes, or delivers to
any person, such writing, without having full knowledge of the truth of the statements therein contained,
and with intent to defraud the United States;
- or Who steals, embezzles, knowingly and willfully misappropriates, applies to his own use or benefit,
or wrongfully and knowingly sells or disposes of any ordnance, arms, equipment, ammunition, clothing,
subsistence stores, money, or other property of the United States, furnished or intended for the military
or naval service thereof;
- or Who knowingly purchases, or receives in pledge for any obligation or indebtedness, from any other
person who is a part of or employed in said service, any ordnance, arms, equipments, ammunition, clothing,
subsistence stores, or other property of the United States, such other person not having lawful right to
sell or pledge the same;
- or Who executes, attempts, or countenances any other fraud against the United States.
And if any person, being guilty of any of the offenses described in this article while in the naval
service, receives his discharge or is dismissed from the service he shall continue to be liable to be
arrested and held for trial and sentence by court-martial in the, same manner and to the same extent as if
he had not received such, discharge nor been dismissed.
The proceeds of vessels or any property hereafter captured, condemned as prize, shall not be distributed
among the captors, in whole or in part, nor shall any bounty be paid for the sinking or destruction of
vessels of the enemy hereafter occurring in time of war.
No person in the Navy shall take out of a prize, or vessel seized as a prize, any money, plate, goods, or
any part of her equipment unless it be for the better preservation thereof or unless such articles are
absolutely needed for the use of any of the vessels or armed forces of the United States before the same are
adjudged lawful prize by a competent court; but the whole, without fraud, concealment, or embezzlement,
shall be brought in in order that judgment may be passed thereon; and every person who offends against this
article shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.
If any person in the Navy strips off the clothes of or pillages or in any manner maltreats any person
taken on board a prize, he shall suffer such punishment as a court-martial may adjudge.
Every person who in time of war deserts the naval service of the United States shall be deemed to have
voluntarily relinquished and forfeited his rights of citizenship, as well as his right to become a citizen,
and shall be forever incapable of holding any office of trust or profit under the United States, or of
exercising any rights of citizens thereof.
Any officer who knowingly enlists into the naval service any person who has deserted in time of war from
the naval or military service of the United States or any insane or intoxicated person or any minor between
the ages of 14 and 18 years without the consent of his parents or guardian or any minor under the age of 14
years shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.
Every commanding officer of a vessel in the Navy shall obey the following rules:
- Whenever a man enters on board the commanding officer shall cause an accurate entry to be made in the
ship's books, showing his name, the date, place and term of his enlistment, the place or vessel from which
he was received on board, his rating, his descriptive list, his age, place of birth, and citizenship, with
such remarks as may be necessary.
- He shall, before sailing, transmit to the Secretary of the Navy a complete list of the rated men under
his command, showing the particulars set forth in rule one, and a list of officers and passengers, showing
the date of their entering. And he shall cause similar lists to be made out on the first day of every
third month and transmitted to the Secretary of the Navy as opportunities occur, accounting therein for
any casualty which may have happened since the last list.
- He shall cause to be accurately minuted on the ship's books the names of any persons dying or
deserting and the time at which such death or desertion occurs.
- In case of the death of any officer, man, or passenger on said vessel he shall take care that the
paymaster secures all the property, of the deceased for the benefit of his legal representatives.
- He shall not receive on board any man transferred from any other vessel or station to him unless such
man is furnished with an account, signed by the captain and paymaster of the vessel or station from which
he came, specifying the date of his entry on said vessel or at said station, the period and term of his
service, the sums paid him, the balance due him, the quality in which he was rated, and his descriptive
- He shall, whenever officers or men are sent from his ship for whatever cause, take care that each man
is furnished with a complete statement of his account, specifying the date of his enlistment, the period
and term of his service, and his descriptive list. Said account shall be signed by the commanding officer
- He shall cause frequent inspections to be made into the condition of the provisions on his ship and
use every precaution for their preservation.
- He shall frequently consult with the surgeon in regard to the sanitary condition of his crew and shall
use all proper means to preserve their health. And he shall cause a convenient place to be set apart for
sick or disabled men, to which he shall have them removed, with their hammocks and bedding, when the
surgeon so advises, and shall direct that some of the crew attend them and keep the place clean.
- He shall attend in person, or appoint a proper officer to attend, when his crew is finally paid off,
to see that justice is done to the men and to the United States in the settlement of the accounts.
- He shall cause the Articles for the Government of the Navy to be hung up in some public part of the
ship and read once a month to his ship's company.
Every commanding officer who offends against the provisions of this article shall be punished as a
court-martial may direct.
When the crew of any vessel of the United States are separated from their vessel by means of her wreck,
loss or destruction, all the command and authority given to the officers of such vessel shall remain in full
force until such ship's company shall be regularly discharged from or ordered again into service, or until a
court-martial or court of inquiry shall be held to inquire into the loss of said vessel. And if any officer
or man, after such wreck, loss, or destruction, acts contrary to the discipline of the Navy, he shall be
punished as a court-martial may direct.
(a) All offenses committed by persons belonging to the Navy which are not specified in the foregoing
articles shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.
(b) Fraudulent enlistment, and the receipt of any pay or allowance thereunder, is hereby declared an offense
against naval discipline and made punishable by general court-martial, under this article.
All offenses committed by persons belonging to the Navy while on shore shall be punished in the same
manner as if they had been committed at sea.
No commander of a vessel shall inflict upon a commissioned or warrant officer any other punishment than
private reprimand, suspension from duty, arrest, or confinement, and such suspension, or confinement shall
not continue longer than 10 days, unless a further period is necessary to bring the offender to trial by a
court-martial; nor shall he inflict, or cause to be inflicted, upon any petty officer, or person of inferior
rating, or marine, for a single offense, or at any one time, any other than one of the following
- Reduction of any rating established by himself.
- Confinement, not exceeding 10 days, unless further confinement be necessary in the case of a prisoner
to be tried by court-martial.
- Solitary confinement, on bread and water, not exceeding five days.
- Solitary confinement not exceeding seven days.
- Deprivation of liberty on shore.
- Extra duties.
No other punishment shall be permitted on board of vessels belonging to the Navy, except by sentence of a
court-martial. All punishments inflicted by the commander, or by his order, except reprimands, shall be
fully entered upon the ship's log.
(a) All officers of the Navy and Marine Corps who are authorized to order either general or summary
courts-martial shall have the same authority to inflict minor punishments as is conferred by law upon the
commander of a naval vessel.
(b) No officer who may command by accident, or in the absence of the commanding officer, except when such
commanding officer is absent for a time by leave, shall inflict any other punishment than confinement.
Summary courts-martial may be ordered upon petty officers and enlisted men in the naval service under his
command by the commanding officer of any vessel, the commandant of any navy yard or naval station, the
commanding officer of any brigade, regiment, or separate or detached battalion, or other separate or
detached command, or marine barracks, and, when empowered by the Secretary of the Navy, by the commanding
officer or officer in charge of any command not specifically mentioned in the foregoing, for the trial of
offenses which such commanding officer or commandant may deem deserving of greater punishment than he is
authorized to inflict, but not sufficient to require trial by a general court-martial.
A summary court-martial shall consist of three officers not below the rank of ensign as members, and of a
recorder. The commander of a ship may order any officer under his command to act as such recorder.
Before proceeding to trial the members of a summary court-martial shall take the following oath or
affirmation, which shall be administered by the recorder: " I, A B, do swear (or affirm) that I will well
and truly try, without prejudice or partiality, the case now depending, according to the evidence which
shall be adduced, the laws for the government of the Navy, and my own conscience." After which the recorder
of the court shall take the following oath or affirmation, which shall be administered by the senior member
of the court: " I, A B, do swear (or affirm) that I will keep a true record of the evidence which shall be
given before this court and of the proceedings thereof."
Except as provided in articles 60 and 68, all testimony before a summary court-martial shall be given
orally, upon oath or affirmation, administered by the senior member of the court.
Summary courts-martial may sentence petty officers and persons of inferior ratings to either a part or
the whole, as may be appropriate, of any one of the following punishments, namely:
- Discharge from the service with bad-conduct discharge; but the sentence shall not be carried into
effect in a foreign country.
- Solitary confinement, not exceeding 30 days, on bread and water or on diminished rations.
- Solitary confinement, not exceeding 30 days.
- Confinement not exceeding two months.
- Reduction to next inferior rating.
- Deprivation of liberty on shore on foreign station.
Extra police duties and loss of pay, not to exceed three months, may be added to any of the
A summary court-martial may disrate any rated person for incompetency.
No sentence of a summary court-martial shall be carried into execution until the proceedings and sentence
have been approved by the officer ordering the court, or his successor in office, and by his immediate
superior in command: Provided, That if the officer ordering the court, or his successor in office, be the
senior officer present, such sentence may be carried into execution upon his approval thereof, subject to
provisions of article 54 (b).
The officer ordering a summary court-martial shall have power to remit, in part or altogether, but not to
commute, the sentence of the court. And it shall be his duty either to remit any part or the whole of any
sentence, the execution of which would, in the opinion of surgeon or senior medical officer on board, given
in writing, produce serious injury to the health of the person sentenced; or to submit the case again,
without delay, to the same or to another summary court-martial, which shall have power, upon the testimony
already taken to remit the former punishment and to assign some other of the authorized punishments in the
The proceedings of summary courts shall be conducted with much conciseness and precision as may be
consistent with the ends of justice and under such forms and rules as may be prescribed the Secretary of the
Navy, with the approval of the President, and all such proceedings shall be transmitted in the usual mode to
the Navy Department, where they shall be kept on file for a period two years from date of trial, after which
time they may be destroyed in the discretion of the Secretary of the Navy.
Any punishment which a summary court-martial is authorized to inflict may be inflicted by a general
No officer shall be dismissed from the naval service except by the order of the President or by sentence
of a general court- martial; and in time of peace no officer shall be dismissed except in pursuance of the
sentence of a general court-martial or in mitigation thereof: Provided, That the President is authorized to
drop from the rolls of the Navy or Marine Corps any officer thereof who is absent from duty without leave
for a period of three months or more, or who, having been found guilty by the civil authorities of any
offense, is finally sentenced to confinement in a State or Federal penitentiary: Provided further, That no
officer so dropped shall be eligible for reappointment.
When any officer, dismissed by order of the President, makes, in writing, an application for trial,
setting forth, under oath that he has been wrongfully dismissed, the President shall, as soon as the
necessities of the service may permit, convene a court-martial to try such officer on the charges on which
he shall have been dismissed. And if such court-martial shall not be convened within six months from the
presentation of such application for trial, or if such court, being convened, shall not award dismissal or
death as the punishment of such officer, the order of dismissal by the President shall be void: Provided,
That the accounting officers are prohibited from making any allowance to any officer of the Navy who has
been, or may hereafter be, dismissed from the service and restored to the same under the provisions of this
article, to exceed more than pay as on leave for six months from the date of dismissal, unless it shall
appear that the officer demanded in writing, addressed to the Secretary of the Navy, and continued to demand
as often as once in six months, a trial as provided for in this article.
General courts-martial may be convened:
(1) By the President, the Secretary of the Navy, the commander in chief of a fleet or squadron, and the
commanding officer of a naval station beyond the continental limits of the United States; and
(2) When empowered by the Secretary of the Navy, by the commanding officer of a squadron, division,
flotilla, or larger naval force afloat, and of a brigade or larger force of the naval service on shore
beyond the continental limits of the United States; and
(3) In time of war, if then so empowered by the Secretary of the Navy, by the commandant of any navy yard or
naval station and by the commanding officer of a brigade or larger force of Navy or Marine Corps, on shore
not attached to a navy yard or naval station.
A general court-martial shall consist of not more than 13 nor less than 5 commissioned officers as
members; and as many officers not exceeding 13, as can be convened without injury to the service shall be
summoned on every such court. But in no case, where it can be avoided without injury to the service, shall
more than half, exclusive of the president, be junior to the officer to be tried. The senior officer shall
always preside and the others shall take place according to their rank.
The president of the general court-martial shall administer the following oath or affirmation to the
judge advocate or person officiating as such:
" I, A B, do swear (or affirm) that I will keep a true record of the evidence given to and the
proceedings of this court; that I will not divulge or by any means disclose the sentence of the court
until it shall have been approved by the proper authority; and that I will not at any time divulge or
disclose the vote or opinion of any particular member of the court, unless required so to do before court
of justice in due course of law."
This oath or affirmation being duly administered, each member of the court, before proceeding to trial,
shall take the following oath or affirmation, which shall be administered by the judge advocate or person
officiating as such:
" I, A B, do swear (or affirm) that I will truly try, without prejudice or partiality, the case now
depending, according to the evidence which shall come before the court, the rules for the government the
Navy, and my own conscience; that I will not by any means divulge or disclose the sentence of the court
until it shall have been approved by the proper authority; and that I will not at any time divulge or
disclose the vote or opinion of any particular member of the court, unless required to do so before a
court of justice in due course of law."
An oath or affirmation in the following form shall be administered to all witnesses before any
court-martial by the president thereof :
" You do solemnly swear (or affirm) that the evidence you shall give in the case now before this court
shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and that you will state everything within
your knowledge in relation to the charges. So help you God (or, 'this you do under the pains and penalty
(a) Whenever any person refuses to give his evidence or to give it in the manner provided by these
articles, or to give it in the manner provided by these articles, or prevaricates, or behaves with contempt
to the court, it still be lawful for the court to imprison him for any time not exceeding two months:
Provided That the person charged shall, at his own request but not otherwise, be a competent witness before
a court-martial or court of inquiry, and his failure to make such request shall not create any presumption
(b) A naval court-martial or court of inquiry shall have power to issue like process to compel witnesses to
appear and testify which United States courts of criminal jurisdiction within the State, Territory, or
District where such naval court shall be ordered to sit may lawfully issue.
(c) Any person duly subpoenaed to appear as a witness before a general court-martial or court of inquiry of
the Navy, who willfully neglects or refuses to appear, or refuses to qualify as a witness or to testify or
produce documentary evidence, which such person may have been legally subpoenaed to produce, shall be deemed
guilty of a misdemeanor, for which such person shall be punished on information in the district court of the
United States; and it shall be the duty of the United States district attorney, on the certification of the
facts to him by such naval court to file an information against and prosecute the person so offending, and
the punishment of such person, on conviction, shall be a fine of not more than $500 or imprisonment not to
exceed six months, or both, at the discretion of the court:
- Provided that this shall not apply to persons residing beyond the State, Territory, or District in
which such naval court is held, and that the fees of such witness and his mileage at the rates provided
for witnesses in the United States district court for said State, Territory, or district shall be duly
paid or tendered said witness, such amounts to be paid by the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts out of the
appropriation for compensation of witnesses:
- Provided further, That no witness shall be compelled to incriminate himself or to answer any
question which may tend to incriminate or degrade him.
The person accused shall be furnished with a true copy of the charges, with the specifications, at the
time he is put under arrest; and no other charges than those so furnished shall be urged against him at the
trial, unless it shall appear to the court that intelligence of such other charge had not reached the
officer ordering the court when the accused was put under arrest, or that some witness material to the
support of such charge was at that time absent and can be produced at the trial; in which case reasonable
times shall be given to the accused to make his defense against such new charge.
Every officer who is arrested for trial shall deliver up his sword to his commanding officer and confine
himself to the limits assigned him, on pain of dismissal from the service.
When the proceedings of any general court-martial have commenced they shall not be suspended or delayed
on account of the absence of any of the members, provided five or more are assembled; but the court is
enjoined to sit from day to day, Sundays excepted, until sentence is given, unless temporarily adjourned by
the authority which convened it.
No member of a general court-martial shall, after the proceedings are begun, absent himself therefrom
except in case of sickness or of an order to go on duty from a superior officer, on pain of being cashiered.
Whenever any member of a court-martial from any legal cause is absent from the court after the
commencement of a case, all the witnesses who have been examined during his absence must, when he is ready
to resume his seat, be recalled by the court and the recorded testimony of each witness so examined must be
read over to him, and such witness must acknowledge the same to be correct and be subject to such further
examination as the said member may require. Without a compliance with this rule, and an entry thereof upon
the record, a member who shall have been absent during the examination of a witness shall not be allowed to
sit again in that particular case.
Whenever a court-martial sentences an officer to be suspended, it may suspend his pay and emoluments for
the whole or any part of the time of his suspension.
In no case shall punishment by flogging, or by branding, marking, or tattooing on the body be adjudged by
any court-martial or be inflicted upon any person in the Navy. The use of irons, single or double, is
abolished, except for the purpose of safe custody or when part of a sentence imposed by a general
No person shall be sentenced by a court-martial to suffer death, except by the concurrence of two-thirds
of the members Present, and in the cases where such punishment is expressly provided in these articles. All
other sentences may be determined by a majority of votes.
It shall be the duty of a court-martial, in all cases of conviction, to adjudge a punishment adequate to
the nature of the offence; but the members thereof may recommend the persons convicted as deserving of
clemency, and state, on the record, their reasons for so doing.
The judgment of every court-martial shall be, authenticated by the signature of the president and of
every member who may be present when said judgment is pronounced, and also of the judge advocate.
No sentence of a court-martial, extending to the loss of life or to the dismissal of a commissioned or
warrant officer, shall be carried into execution until confirmed by the President. All other sentences of a
general court-martial may be carried into execution on confirmation of the commander of the fleet or officer
ordering the court.
(a) Every officer who is authorized to convene a general court-martial shall have power, on revision of
its proceedings, to remit or mitigate, but not to commute, the sentence of any such court which he is
authorized to approve and confirm.
(b) The Secretary of the Navy may set aside the proceedings or remit or mitigate, in whole or in part, the
sentence imposed by any naval court-martial convened by his order or by that of any officer of the Navy or
Courts of inquiry may be convened by the President, the Secretary of the Navy, the commander of a fleet
or squadron, and by any officer of the naval service authorized by law to convene general courts-martial.
A court of inquiry shall consist of not more than three commissioned officers as members, and of a judge
advocate, or person officiating as such.
Courts of inquiry shall have power to summon witnesses, administer oaths, and punish contempts in the
same manner as courts-martial; but they shall only state facts, and shall not give the opinion unless
expressly required so to do in the order for convening.
The judge advocate, or person officiating as such, shall administer to the members the following oath or
affirmation: "You do swear (or affirm) well and truly to examine and inquire, according to the evidence,
into the matter now before you without partiality." After which the president shall administer to the judge
advocate or person officiating as such, the following oath or affirmation "You do swear (or affirm) truly to
record the proceedings of this court and the evidence to be given in the case in hearing."
The party whose conduct shall be the subject of inquiry, or his attorney, shall have the right to cross
examine all the witnesses.
The proceedings of courts of inquiry shall be authenticated by the signature of the president of the
court and of the judge advocate, and shall, in all cases not capital nor extending to the dismissal of a
commissioned or warrant officer, be evidence before a court-martial, provided oral testimony can not be
No person shall be tried by court-martial or otherwise punished for any offense, except as provided in
the following article, which appears to have been committed more than two years before the issuing of the
order for such trial or punishment, unless by reason of having absented himself or for some other manifest
impediment he shall not have been amenable to justice within that period.
No person shall be tried by court-martial or otherwise punished for desertion in time of peace, committed
more than two years before the issuing of the order for such trial or punishment, unless he shall meanwhile
have absented himself from the United States or by reason of some other manifest impediment shall not have
been amenable to justice within that period, in which case the time of his absence shall be excluded in
computing the period of the limitation: Provided, That said limitation shall not begin until the end of the
term for which said person was enlisted in the service.
Whenever, by any of the Articles for the Government of the Navy of the United States, the punishment on
conviction of an offense is left to the discretion of the court-martial, the punishment therefor shall not,
in time of peace, be in excess of a limit which the President may prescribe.
(a) All officers of the Navy and Marine Corps who are authorized to order either general or summary
courts-martial may order deck courts upon enlisted men under their command, for minor offenses now triable
by summary court-martial.
(b) Deck courts shall consist of one commissioned officer only, who, while serving in such capacity shall
have power to administer oaths, to hear and determine cases, and to impose either a part or the whole, as
may be appropriate, of any one of the punishments prescribed by article 30 of the Articles for the
Government of the Navy: Provided, That in no case shall such courts adjudge discharge from the service or
adjudge confinement or forfeiture of pay for a longer period than 20 days.
(c) Any person in the Navy under command of the officer by whose order a deck court is convened may be
detailed to act as recorder thereof.
(d) All sentences of deck courts may be carried into effect upon approval of the convening authority or his
successor in office, who shall have full power as reviewing authority to remit or mitigate, but not to
commute, any such sentence and to pardon any punishment such court may adjudge; but no sentence of a deck
court shall carried into effect until it shall have been so approved or mitigated.
(e) Deck courts shall be governed in all details of their constitution, powers, and procedure, except as
herein provided, by such rules and regulations as the President may prescribe.
(f) The records of the proceedings of deck courts shall contain such matters only as are necessary to enable
the reviewing authorities to act intelligently thereon, except that if the party accused demands it within
30 days after the decision of the deck court shall become known to him, the entire record or so much as he
desires shall be sent to the reviewing authority. Such records, after action thereon by the convening
authority, shall be forwarded directly to, and shall be filed in, the office of the Judge Advocate General
of the Navy, where they shall be reviewed, and, when necessary, submitted to the Secretary of the Navy for
(g) No person who objects thereto shall be brought to trial before a deck court. Where such objection is
made by the person accused, trial shall be ordered by summary or by general court-martial, as may be
When actively serving under the Navy Department in time of war or during the existence of an emergency,
pursuant to law, as a part of the naval forces of the United States, commissioned officers of the Naval
Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Naval Militia, Coast Guard, Lighthouse Service, Coast and Geodetic Survey,
and Public Health Service are empowered to serve on naval courts-martial and deck courts under such
regulations necessary for the proper administration of justice and in the interests of the services
involved, as may be prescribed by the Secretary of the Navy.
When empowered by the Secretary of the Navy pursuant to article 26 to order summary courts-martial, the
commanding officer of a naval hospital or hospital ship shall be empowered to order such courts and deck
courts, and inflict the punishments which the commander of a naval vessel is authorized by law to inflict,
upon all enlisted men of the naval service attached thereto, whether for duty or as patients.
When a force of marines is embarked on a naval vessel, or vessels, as a separate organization, not a part
of the authorized complement thereof, the authority and powers of the officers of such separate organization
of marines shall be the same as though such organization were serving at a navy yard on shore, but nothing
herein shall be construed as impairing the paramount authority of the commanding officer of any naval vessel
over the vessel under his command and all persons embarked thereon.
The depositions of witnesses may be taken on reasonable notice to the opposite party, and when duly
authenticated, may be put in evidence before naval courts, except in capital cases and cases where the
punishment may be imprisonment or confinement for more than one year as follows:
(1) Depositions of civilian witnesses residing outside the State, Territory, or District in which a naval
court is ordered to sit.
(2) Depositions of persons in the naval or military service stationed or residing outside the State,
Territory or District in which a naval court is ordered to sit, or who are under orders to go outside of
such State, Territory, or District.
(3) Where such naval court is convened on board a vessel of the United States, or at a naval station not
within any State, Territory, or District of the United States, the depositions of witnesses may be taken and
used as herein provided whenever such witnesses reside or are stationed at such a distance from the place
where said naval court is ordered to sit, or are about to go to such a distance as, in the judgment of the
convening authority, would render it impracticable to secure their personal attendance.
Judges advocate of naval general courts-martial and courts of inquiry, and all commanders in chief of
naval squadrons, commandants of navy yards and stations, officers commanding vessels of the Navy, and
recruiting officers of the Navy, and the adjutant and inspector, assistants adjutant and inspector,
commanding officers, recruiting officers of the Marine Corps, and such other officers of the regular Navy
and Marine Corps, of the Naval Reserve, and of the Marine Corps Reserve, as may be hereafter designated by
the Secretary of the Navy, are authorized to administer oaths for the purposes of the administration of
naval justice and for other purposes of naval administration.
Any officer of the Navy or Marine Corps detailed to conduct an investigation, and the recorder, and if
there be none the presiding officer, of any naval board appointed for such purpose, shall have authority to
administer an oath to any witness attending to testify or depose in the course of such investigation.