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False Official Statement Offense

False Official Statement: The purpose of Article 107 is to protect governmental departments and agencies from the impact of deceptive practices.  A physical act or nonverbal conduct intended by a Soldier as an assertion is a “statement” that may form the basis for a charge of making a false official statement under Article 107.

Formerly, a false statement to an investigator, made by a suspect who had no independent duty to account or answer questions, was not official within the purview of Article 107.  Later, the Court of Military Appeals determined that no independent duty to account was required if the accused falsely reported a crime.  More recently, the court determined that officiality was not dependent upon an independent duty to account or initiation of a report.  The focus is on the officiality of the statement—whether an official governmental function was perverted by a false or misleading statement.

Official statements include those made “in the line of duty.”  An intentionally deceptive statement made by a service member to civilian authorities may be nonetheless “official” and within the scope of Article 107.  Duty status at the time of the statement is not determinative. False official statements are not limited those made in the line of duty. Statements made outside of a servicemember’s duties may still implicate official military functions.  The critical distinction is whether the statements relate to the official duties of the speaker or hearer, and whether those official duties fall within the UCMJ’s reach.

Statements are official for purposes of Article 107 where there is a “clear and direct relationship to the official duties” at issue and where the circumstances surrounding the statement “reflect a substantial military interest in the investigation.”  United States v. Teffeau, 58 M.J. 62 (C.A.A.F. 2003).  Statements may be official where there is “a predictable and necessary nexus to on-base persons performing official military functions on behalf of the command.”  United States v. Day, 66 M.J. 172 (C.A.A.F. 2008).

If you are charged with a false official statement at a court-martial, the government will need to prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

a) That you signed a certain official document or made a certain official statement;
b) That the document or statement was false in certain particulars;
c) That you knew it to be false at the time of signing it or making it; and
d) That the false document or statement was made with the intent to deceive.

The military judge will instruct the court-martial members that “intent to deceive” means to purposely mislead, to cheat, to trick another, or to cause another to believe as true that which is false.  The judge will also instruct the court-martial members that a statement is official when the maker is either acting in the line of duty or the statement directly relates to the maker’s official military duties, or where the receiver is either a military member carrying out a military duty when the statement is made or a civilian necessarily performing a military function when the statement is made.

If you are facing a court-martial, it is important that you reach out to an attorney for help.  Mr. Coombs has over twenty years of experience helping Soldiers.  If you would like a civilian defense lawyer’s assistance with your court-martial, contact Mr. Coombs today for a free court-martial consultation.