Article 107 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) makes it a crime for a military member to knowingly make a false official statement with the intent to deceive. In representing someone charged with this offense, a military defense lawyer may argue that even if the statement was false, the statement was not an ‘official’ statement. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces recently reversed a conviction for an Article 107 charge in the case of a military member convicted of this offense after making false statements to civilian law enforcement officials who were not conducting any military function at the time the statements were made.
The facts of the case were that an active duty military member was questioned by civilian law enforcement officials after he reported that his two minor children had been kidnapped. During the initial stages of the civilian investigation, the accused made two statements that turned out to be false. The court held that in order to determine whether a false statement is official, the critical question is whether the statement related to the official duties of either the speaker or the hearer and whether those official duties fell within the scope of the UCMJ. Clearly, if the member makes the false statement while in the line of duty, it will be an official statement. Likewise, if the statement is made to another military member carrying out a military duty or to a civilian who is performing a military function (for example, an NCIS or CID agent), the statement will be considered an official statement. In this case, however, the accused member made the false statements to a civilian law enforcement official who was acting in a purely civilian capacity and the accused was not in the line of duty at the time the statements were made. As a result, the court found that the evidence was not legally sufficient to support a finding of guilty of making a false official statement under Article 107.
If you have a question about your military justice case, contact an experienced military defense lawyer.