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Unlawful Command Influence (UCI)

Unlawful command influence (UCI) is one of the major reasons the Uniform Code of Military Justice was adopted after World War II. Unlawful command influence is prohibited under UCMJ Article 37(a).

UCI is considered a "mortal enemy of military justice." See United States v. Thomas, 22 M.J. 388, 393 (C.M.A. 1986). Thomas is the famous Third Armor cases. In the recent case of United States v. Harvey, 64 M.J. 13 (C.A.A.F. 2006), the court repeated the idea that commanders and leaders can abuse their power and constant vigilance is required. ,

One military judge colorfully described UCI as "the carcinoma of the military justice system, and when found, must be surgically eradicated. See United States v. Gore, 60 M.J. 178, 184 (C.A.A.F. 2004).

In United States v. Biagase, 50 M.J. 143 (C.A.A.F. 1999) the Court established several steps to take if you have a UCI issue.

1. Produce some evidence, which moves the burden to the prosecution.

2. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

a. The alleged facts or wrong or not true.

b. That even if true, there is no UCI

c. Or, there is UCI but it will not prejudice the trial.

d. The appellate courts also say that a judge can take other steps to limit the effects of UCI. For example, in one case the judge prohibited the prosecution calling some witnesses.

If you suspect your case is being influenced wrongfully this is a matter you should raise with your military lawyer during trial preparations. This is an issue that must be addressed quickly and effectively if you are to have a fair trial. Biagese also set out what the accused and the military lawyer must do to put the UCI issue on the record.

As you can see, you need the assistance of a military lawyer defense counsel who is willing to go up against authority, to professionally challenge authority, and to professionally put them on the spot to justify their actions. It's not enough to say my trial is unfair, you and your military lawyer need to establish some initial facts. Here is a link to an Army Judge Advocate General School study guide used to teach new Army lawyers. Here's a link to an article in the Army Lawyer, it's from 2001 so a little old, but it gives a flavor of the issues; and here's another one from 2004.

Unfortunately, in 2019 and now effective, the Congress changed the rules!

Congress has done away with the concept of apparent UCI.

Further, Congress has limited the types of persons who can be accused of UCI.

Basically, as we posted here, people can unfairly influence your trial without a consequence in many cases.

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