Article 126 UCMJ: A Brief Overview

Today, we are going to take a look at Article 126 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Many of us wonder why anyone in the military would ever face an Article 126, but it does, and has happened. Hopefully never to you or anyone you know because this is a major violation of the UCMJ.

What An Article 126 Is

Simply put, an Article 126 is arson… Burning a dwelling or any other structure willfully and maliciously.

article 126
Photo by Chris Karidis on Unsplash

The Key Is Willfully And Maliciously

There have been some cases where an accidental fire happened and a service member was charged with an Article 126.

It is the responsibility of prosecutors to prove beyond the shadow of doubt that the accused had malicious intent.

Two Types: Article 126

There are two types of arson:

  1. Aggravated Arson
  2. Simple Arson

With aggravated arson, it means the dwelling or structure must have humans inside or the possibility they could have been inside.

Simple arson is the burning of a dwelling or structure with no humans inside.

Both types require prosecutors to prove ownership of the dwelling or structure.

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Why It Can Be Difficult For Prosecutors To Prove

There are many factors that come into play in convicting a service member of an Article 126.

  • Forensic evidence is important. The evidence must absolutely show arson was the method and that it was a willful act.
  • What a person says can be held against them. Normally, prosecutors are able to convict just because the person stated guilt.
  • Motives are ultra important because it must be proved the accused willfully and maliciously started the fire.

If A Person Is Found Guilty

A conviction of an Article 126 carries terrible consequences. For aggravated arson:

  • Demoted to E1
  • Loss of all pay and allowances
  • 20 years in prison
  • and a dishonorable discharge

There are 2 structures for simple arson:

If damage is less than $500

  • Demoted to E1
  • Loss of all pay and allowances
  • 1 year in prison
  • and a dishonorable discharge

For more than $500

  • Demoted to E1
  • Loss of all pay and allowances
  • 5 years in prison
  • and a dishonorable discharge

Final Thoughts

I really hope that no one reading this will ever have to face an Article 126.

And please be careful when handling flammable materials. Many have been charged with this offense because of an accident.

While we are not attorneys, you are free to ask any questions and we will attempt to get an answer to you.

If you or anyone you know is facing an Article 126, we strongly recommend you get an attorney experienced in military law.

I hope this helps you understand the Article 126, Arson.

Please leave your comments and questions below.




About The Author

Greg Boudonck is a full time freelance writer and the author of over 50 books. He served in the United States Army in the early 1980’s and enjoys writing about military subjects. You can see Greg’s books on Amazon by searching his name and you can also visit his website at

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