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UCMJ Article 78 (Accessory After the Fact)

R. Davis Younts

Military Lawyer

UCMJ Article 78 (Accessory After the Fact)

UCMJ Article 78, also known as “Accessory After the Fact” lays out when a service member can be prosecuted. If a service member knowingly helps or comforts an offender to hinder their arrest, trial, or punishment, they may face charges under this article. Even if the accessory didn’t directly participate in the crime, they can still be punished under Article 78 if they assisted in concealing the offense.

To prove the case, the prosecution must show the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • A specific person committed an offense punishable under the UCMJ.
  • the accused knew about the person’s involvement in the offense.
  • Subsequently, the accused offered help or comfort to the offender.
  • the intention behind their actions was to obstruct the apprehension, trial, or punishment of the offender.

To defend against Article 78 charges, the accused needs to demonstrate either that they were unaware of the crime or that they didn’t provide any benefits to the offender after the crime occurred. The assistance could be as simple as giving the offender a safe place to stay or as complex as assisting in the destruction of evidence.

What is the Maximum Punishment?

The Maximum Possible Punishments for Violations of Article 78 can be severe, based on the maximum punishment allowed for the principal offense. However, certain limitations apply, such as excluding the death penalty and capping confinement to 10 years, even for crimes punishable by life imprisonment.

It’s essential to understand that a person prosecuted under Article 78 is not treated as the main perpetrator of the crime but as an accessory after the fact. This means they can still be convicted even if the principal offender is acquitted in a separate trial.

If someone is facing charges under Article 78 as a principal of a crime, it’s crucial to seek immediate legal representation. Attorney R. Davis Younts has been a prosecutor, a JAG (Judge Advocate General), and a number one-ranked Senior Defense Counsel in the U.S. Air Force. He’s been practicing law for two decades. Call attorney R. Davis Younts at (833) 739-5291 or (717) 612-4840. Free consultation.

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