Article 89 Disrespect toward a Superior Commissioned Officer
Article 89 deals with servicemen who have shown disrespectful behavior toward their superior officers. The accused is punished as deemed right through a court martial process.
The elements under Article 89 that must be proved by the prosecution are:
- That the accused committed an act(s) or used certain words to or about a commissioned officer.
- That the words or behavior were directed towards that commissioned officer.
- That the person who was the subject of the words or behavior was a superior commissioned office to the accused.
- That the accused was aware of the commissioned officer's superiority when he used such disrespectful language/ behavior.
- That the behavior or language indicated disrespect to the superior officer under the circumstances prevailing at that time.
What is the Maximum Punishment Granted under Article 89?
A serviceman charged with article 89 violation faces bad conduct discharge, forfeiture of all allowances and pay and one year confinement as maximum punishment. To learn more about this punitive article refer to the Manual for Courts Martial.
Explanation of Article 89
When a servicemen fails to give his superior the respect that is due to his authority and person, he exhibit disrespectful behavior as per Article 89. This disrespect may be in the form of an action or in language. The accused violates article 89 irrespective of whether he has been disrespectful to the commissioned officer as a private individual or in his capacity as a superior officer.
Two Situations where Article 89 Violations may Occur
a) When the accused and the superior officer are in the same armed force: In such case, the term 'superior officer' refers to the commanding officer or any commissioned officer of the same armed force who carries superior rank and is not inferior in command to the accused.
b) When the accused and the superior officer are in different armed forces: The term 'superior officer' here refers to a commissioned officer of the other armed force who is in a superior position in the chain of command when compared to the accused.
Points to Note about Article 89
- Abusive or derogatory words and denunciatory language are considered as disrespectful behavior.
- Failure to salute, showing disdain, insolence, indifference, rudeness, impertinence and undue familiarity also constitute disrespectful behavior to the superior.
- The accused violates the article even if the words he has used are true and correct.
- The superior officer need not be in this office or position when the disrespectful behavior is carried out.
- The accused may say in his defense that he was unaware that the other was a superior officer. However, circumstantial evidence is admissible to prove knowledge of this fact.
- A serviceman shall be charged under this article even if he used disrespectful language or carried out such actions when the superior was not present. However, generally, words used or acts done in private conversations are not used to bring about charges against the serviceman.
If the superior officer's conduct with the accused is not in line with accepted standards, then the latter may not be charged under Article 89 even if he has exhibited disrespect for the superior. It is deemed that the superior has lost his entitlement to respectful behavior owing to his own undesirable conduct.
Example of Article 89 Incidence
In the United States v. Sorrells, 49 C.M.R. 44 (A.C.M.R. 1974) trial, it was deemed that the accused was not violating this article when he used profanities loudly in the presence of his superior officer because these were not directed toward the latter but toward others in the room.
In the United States v. Ferenczi, 27 C.M.R. 77 (C.M.A. 1958) trial, the accused subordinate officer was found guilty of violating Article 89 by his act of contemptuously turning and walking away from his superior officer while the latter was still talking to him.
Article 91 Insubordinate Conduct Toward Warrant Officer, Noncommissioned Officer, or Petty Officer
This article applies to persons accused of disrespecting a warrant officer, noncommissioned officer or petty officer.
There are three instances in which service members shall come under the purview of Article 91 and face court martial:
- striking or assaulting a noncommissioned officer, warrant officer or petty officer, or
- willfully disobeying the lawful order of a noncommissioned officer, warrant officer, or petty officer, or
- treating a noncommissioned officer, warrant officer, or petty officer with contempt or disrespectful language
Elements and Explanation of Assault
The following four elements define the article and must be investigated to gain a fair assessment of the case:
a. The accused was an enlisted service member or warrant officer
b. The accused attempted to inflict bodily harm on the officer or struck him/her
c. The attempt or action on the victim occurred when he/she was performing his official duties
d. The accused was aware, at the time, that the victim was a warrant, noncommissioned or petty officer
Elements A and D also apply to 'willful disobedience' and 'contempt or disrespect' aspects of Article 91. In all three cases, the accused should have performed or attempted to perform the wrongful action (assault, disobedience or disrespect) when the officer was executing his/her office.
The nature of assault is also a determining factor in Article 91. In this regard, the assault can be of three types. Assault by attempt refers to an attempt to inflict bodily harm in a way that goes beyond mere preparation. Assault by offer is an intentional or culpably negligent act that allows the victim to reasonably believe that he/she will be subject to bodily harm. Culpable negligence is a gross or deliberate disregard for foreseeable consequences. It goes beyond simple negligence where there is a failure to use due care. Assault consummated by a battery refers to unlawfully and intentionally inflicting violence or force.
Elements and Explanation of Willful Disobedience
To be found guilty of willful disobedience, it should be established that the accused intentionally disobeyed a certain lawful order from the petty, warrant or noncommisioned officer in question. He/she should also have a duty to obey the order.
The order must have been directed personally to the accused, who must be aware that he/she is receiving it from a petty, noncommisioned or warrant officer. The order must be understandable, and the method of delivering the order is not important.
Elements and Explanation of Contempt or Disrespect
Contempt includes all rude and insulting conduct directed at a noncommisioned, petty or warrant officer. It also includes the act of attributing qualities like worthlessness and disreputableness to the officer. Disrespect can be conveyed through words or acts that demonstrate rudeness, indifference, disdain, silent insolence and impertinence towards the officer and within his/her sight and hearing.
The elements under 'contempt or disrespect' include:
- Doing or failing to do certain acts or directing certain behavior at the officer, as alleged
- Using certain language as alleged
- Being disrespectful to the rank and state of the officer by performing the alleged actions or engaging in the alleged behavior
Defense under Article 91
Divestiture of status can be cited as a defense under Article 91. When the evidence suggests that the victim acted in a way that took away his/her status as a petty, noncommisioned or warrant officer in the execution of office, a careful examination is merited. If it is believed beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer did not behave in a manner unbecoming of his/her rank and did not abandon his/her status, the accused shall be deemed guilty.
- The maximum punishment for assault is dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of all pay and allowances. Depending on whether the victim in question is a noncommissioned/petty officer, superior noncommisioned/petty officer or warrant officer, the confinement can be one year, three years or five years respectively.
- The maximum punishment for willfully disobeying the lawful order of a petty or noncommissioned officer is dishonorable discharge, total forfeiture and a one-year jail term. The same applies for willfully disobeying a warrant officer, but the confinement period in this case is two years.
- The maximum punishment for contempt and disrespect to a warrant officer is bad-conduct discharge, total forfeiture and 9-month confinement. When the victim is a superior noncommisioned/petty officer, total forfeiture, bad-conduct discharge and 6-month confinement shall be imposed. In case of other petty or noncommisioned officer, confinement of three months and forfeiture of two-thirds of monthly pay for a period of three months, shall be imposed.