Military Law

Military Law

What is military law or military justice?

Military justice is concerned with the behaviour and conduct of the members of the military forces.  It is specific to the country which has made the laws but the most common military matters which arise concern the disciplining of the members of the armed forces.  There are also a number of laws which concern the welfare of members of the armed forces.  This area of law is associated with the pension and retirement benefits of the personnel in the armed forces and some of the tax related elements of military pay and 401k plans.

Although one of the most common legal issues that arises in relation to military law is the misconduct of soldiers, sailors or airmen the most controversial element of military law is the legality of orders given by military leaders.  In some circumstances, officers that give orders in the military can face a court martial if they give orders which are not lawful.  Some of the common issues which are decided in courts martial are the legality of conduct of military officers and enlisted men.  Sometimes soldiers can be accused by an officer of insubordination for disobeying orders.  However, if a commander must resort to military discipline law it is unlikely that they command the respect of their men.

In many situations, the civilian law also applies to military personnel.  The areas of human behaviour which are not covered by military law are supplemented by the local laws which cover the areas not addressed by military laws and regulations.  There is also a contingency in most legal systems for what is known as martial law which is where there is some sort of civil emergency which requires the intervention of the military to stabilise the situation.  Martial law is only ever intended to be temporary and the constitution of the United States reflects this common legal position on martial law.

What is the source of law for military law in the United States?

Under the federal constitution there is a provision for the laws and regulations which govern the behaviour of members of the military.  Under Article 1, Section 8, there is a clause which empowers the United States legislature to write laws which govern what the military forces can and cannot do.  The first time that this part of the Constitution was used was at the time of the beginning of the civil war.  The modern law is known as the Uniform Code of Military Justice under Title 10 of the United States Code.


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Legal Resources

  • National Security Act The National Security Act of 1947 was an Act of Congress signed by President Harry S. Truman on 26 July 1947, and realigned and reorganized the U.S. Armed Forces, foreign policy, and Intelligence Community apparatus in the United States.
  • The USA Patriot Act The USA Patriot Act is an Act of the U.S. Congress that was signed into law by President George W. Bush, the title of the act is a ten letter acronym that stands for Uniting Strengthening America Providing Appropriate Tools.
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