Article 89 UCMJ: Disrespect a Superior Commissioned Officer

Today, we are going to do an overview of Article 89 in the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

I believe that in these days and times, it is important that every service member understands what this Article is and the consequences that can result from breaking this Article.

I will explain all I can find on this and do feel free to ask questions and I will do my best to find answers.

Article 89 UCMJ Disrespecting a Superior Commissioned Officer

What An Article 89 Is

The actual definition of an Article 89 is: disrespect toward a superior commissioned officer.

Just by reading this, we can see this charge could be used in many situations and circumstances. But there are elements that must be met to have it stand up in a military court.

I will explain some of these elements to the best of my ability.

Elements Needed For An Article 89

This Article includes actions or words…

  • Any personnel who did or omitted certain acts or used certain language to or concerning a certain commissioned officer.
  • The behavior or language had to be directed toward that officer. Generalities would not fall under this Article. Example: “All the leadership in this Division are stupid.” While an Article 89 may not stand in that case, I am sure there are punitive decisions that would stand.
  • The officer must be the superior commissioned officer of the accused and the accused must know he/she if their superior commissioned officer.
  • If the accused and the victim are in the same armed force, the victim is a “superior commissioned officer” of the accused when either superior in rank or command to the accused; however, the victim is not a “superior commissioned officer” of the accused if the victim is inferior in command, even though superior in rank.
  • If in different armed forces, this would only be relevant if both were detained by hostile forces or working on a joint force project.
  • Disrespect by words may be conveyed by abusive epithets or other contemptuous or denunciation language. The truth is no defense.
  • Disrespect by acts includes neglecting the customary salute or showing a marked disdain, indifference, insolence, impertinence, undue familiarity, or other rudeness in the presence of the superior officer.

I say that this is more important now than ever mainly because of the ease of posting disrespectful comments or images on social media.

You do need to think before you post because you could possibly be charged with an Article 89.

If A Person Is Found Guilty

I do believe that every one of us have moments of “stupid words or actions.” I also believe that the powers that be take that in account. But when a soldier consistently disrespects a superior commissioned officer, the Armed Forces cannot allow it to keep happening.

The maximum penalty is 1 year confinement, a bad conduct discharge and loss of pay and allowances.

It may seem harsh but if you are not following the military law, even though what you are saying may be truthful, you deserve the punishment.

Final Thoughts

While I do believe that we should be able to speak our opinions, we do need to be respectful when doing so. This also includes our actions.

Yes, this is a “wide open” article that could be used maliciously to get a person relieved from duty. So if you have been charged with an Article 89, I suggest you get an experienced attorney in UCMJ Articles.

More than anything, just keep your words and actions in line and you won’t have to worry about it.

I would love to hear any, and all thoughts about the Article 89. You can post them below.

Thank you.

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  3. Rules for Saluting Army Officers: What Every Soldier Should Know
  4. Officer Politics in the Army
  5. Top Military Career Tips
chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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