By, Mathew B. Tully
Q. Since I got caught smoking pot, my commander has been having a field day
publicly humiliating me. Can he do that?
A. Article 13 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice shields service members
from pretrial punishment.
It states the arrest or confinement imposed upon a service member should not
“be any more rigorous than the circumstances required to insure his presence.”
Although no chains or hard labor are involved, a commander’s attempts to
humiliate a service member who is under arrest or facing UCMJ action could
qualify as a form of pretrial punishment.
“When commanders and superiors publicly denounce, degrade, or humiliate an
accused prior to trial, these words may constitute unlawful pretrial punishment
warranting confinement credit,” the Army Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in U.S.
v. Charles E. Singleton (2003).
One example cited by the court involved a supervising officer’s public
posting of an incident report detailing a junior enlisted soldier’s alleged drug
use, his name and a letter of reprimand he received.
Another example involved a company commander who made remarks to an accused
charged with larceny, such as, “Don’t go out stealing car stereos this weekend”
- remarks made during details, in front of company-sized formations and at the
accused’s work stations.
Courts can grant service members various forms of relief if they are
subjected to pretrial punishment in the form of degradation, public denouncement
or humiliation. In Singleton, for example, the court said a confined sergeant
whose guards or other persons in authority referred to him as a “private”
instead of a “detainee,” would be eligible for five days of confinement credit.
The case of U.S. v. Lawrence F. Latta, III (1992), involved an Army private
who had been called to the front of a unit formation and described by his first
sergeant as “my favorite AWOL case.”
After being convicted at general court-martial of two specifications of being
AWOL, he was sentenced to a bad conduct discharge, six months confinement,
forfeitures of $500 per month for six months, and reduction to the lowest
After finding the soldier’s Article 13 rights were violated, the U.S. Court
of Military Review eliminated the forfeiture component of his sentence.
Mathew B. Tully is a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the
founding partner of Tully Rinckey PLLC. Email questions to
email@example.com The information in this column is not intended as