Is Fraternization Between Military Members Allowed?

marines in dress uniform standing in a line

How the military treats intimate relationships.

Military members are held to a high standard of conduct, both on and off duty. So what happens when two military members engage in a romantic or sexual relationship? Is fraternization between military members a crime? The military defense lawyers at The Griffin Law Firm offer further insights into fraternization.

The answer is complicated. There is no one answer that fits all situations, as the rules governing fraternization can vary depending on the branch of the military and the rank of the service members involved. Generally speaking, however, fraternization is frowned upon and can lead to disciplinary action, up to and including discharge from the military.

There are a few reasons for this. First, fraternization can create conflicts of interest and lead to preferential treatment within the military ranks. Additionally, romantic or sexual relationships between service members can lead to allegations of sexual harassment or assault. Third, sexual fraternization may cause hatred among members of the rank and maybe a morale killer.

What Is Fraternization?

Fraternization is the term used to describe any socializing or sexual contact between officers and enlisted members in the military. In non-military contexts, fraternization can be broadly defined as any social interaction between two individuals who are not closely related that falls outside of the bounds of normal workplace interactions. It can manifest in a variety of ways, from friendly banter to overtly sexual behavior. 

Is Fraternization Prohibited in the Military?

Military members are expected to maintain a professional and respectful relationship with their fellow servicemen and servicewomen. As such, military members who engage in sexual relationships with someone who is not their spouse can be charged with adultery, which is a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (Article 134). Adultery is punishable by up to a year in prison and a dishonorable discharge from the military.

Military members who engage in sexual relationships with someone who is in a lower rank than them can also be charged with fraternization. According to the manual for court martial, this is also punishable by up to a year in prison and a bad-conduct discharge from the military.

As fraternization is often viewed as inappropriate and can lead to conflicts of interest, and allegations of favoritism, and can also damage unit morale and undermine discipline, it is thus often frowned upon.

Defenses to a Fraternization Charge?

Charges of fraternization can be serious, but there are a number of possible defenses to such a charge. One is that the two people accused were not actually in a fraternal relationship. Another is that the two parties were not in a supervisory position over one another. Or are in the same rank. Additionally, the parties may have been married or had an intimate relationship prior to the accusation, or prior to them joining the military. Finally, the defense can argue that the fraternal alliance did not undermine the established chain of command or lower morale or productivity.

Speak to a Military Defense Attorney

In conclusion, fraternization between military members can be a crime, but it depends on the situation. There are many factors that need to be considered, such as the rank of the individuals involved and the nature of the relationship. If you have any questions about fraternization, you should speak with a military defense attorney at Griffin Law Defense.

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