For the first time in decades, the Military Justice and Manual for Courts-Martial is seeing drastic reform.
Effective Jan. 1, the Military Justice Act of 2016 instated major reform to the code and manual in an attempt to modernize “dated aspects of the military justice system while also providing transparency,” according to the U.S. Air Force.
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“The Military Justice Act represents the most significant change to the military justice system since the Military Justice Act of 1983. Over the past year, the Air Force JAG Corps has engaged in a robust training effort to educate every total force judge advocate and paralegal on the changes contained in the Act,” said Lt. Gen. Jeff Rockwell, Air Force Judge Advocate General.
U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, former 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who proposed a systemic review of the UCMJ and MCM to the Secretary of Defense in 2013, advocating that changes need to be implemented to ensure military laws and regulations reflect today’s environment.
Reforms will establish fixed numbers of members for courts-martial, expand judge-alone sentencing, expand the opportunity for convicted service members to appeal their convictions and require most court-martial documents be made publicly accessible under a system similar to those used in civilian criminal justice systems.
While some offenses were prohibited in the past, they are now specifically enumerated crimes under the UCMJ. The new offenses include:
• retaliation against a person for reporting or planning to report a crime
• fraudulent use of credit cards and debit cards
• sexual activity between military members in a position of trust and specially protected junior members
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