The UCMJ makes it an offense under Article 107 to:
- Sign a false record, return, regulation, order, or other official document, when you knew it was false; or
- Make any verbal/oral false official statement when you knew it was false.
Your military defense counsel will tell you that the prosecution has to prove the following:
- You signed an official document or said an official statement;
- The document or statement was false;
- You knew it to be false when you did it; and
- You intended to deceive the persons or organizations to whom the statement was made or given.
- The person you were making the statement to was performing a military duty related to anything military.
Punishments can include a punitive discharge (BCD, DD, Dismissal), confinement for up to five years.
Here are some examples of false official statements that can come up during an administrative or criminal investigation:
- A service member signs a leave form that falsely states that they are not under investigation for a crime.
- A service member submits a fitness report that falsely states they have met all their training requirements.
- A service member makes a sworn statement to a military investigator that is proven to be false. For example, “it was consensual.”
- Note that the doctrine of the “exculpatory No” has been rejected by the military appellate courts. There was a time when saying “No” or “I didn’t do that” in response to an allegation was not considered a false statement. The point here is that it is best to say nothing and ask for a lawyer whenever you are being asked about an alleged offense by military law enforcement or command investigators.
- You can be accused of falsely telling a BX/PX store detective how you got some items and did not shoplift them.
- You can be accused of making false statements to FAP persons.
- You can be accused of making a false statement to civilian law enforcement if a military investigator was present and there was a “joint” investigation.
Some of the evidence looks at the standpoint of the speaker. Is the speaking acting in the line of duty, or do the statements directly relate to the speaker’s official military duties?”
Recently, the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled that giving a landlord a false set of PCS orders to get out of a lease is not an official statement punishable under the UCMJ. However, the convictions for possession and distribution of drugs were affirmed. See United States v. Flores, July 2023.
- The statements were not made in the line of duty.
- The notice of intent to move had no clear and direct relationship to military duties.
- The statements were made in a personal capacity.
- The Air Force was not a party to the lease.
- She was not performing any military duty at the time.
- The statement was not made to a military member carrying out military duties.
- The landlady was not performing a military function at the time.
The court also considered the severity of the sentence and decided the improper conviction did not affect the sentence and that the sentence was appropriate for the remaining drug charges.
If you are accused of making a false official statement, speaking with an experienced military lawyer as soon as possible is essential. A lawyer can help you understand the charges against you and your defense options.