Larceny and Courts-Martial – Part One

The U.S. military prosecutes larceny (a.k.a. theft) under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) Article 121. From the standpoint of the prosecution, the elements for a successful court-martial are:

  • That the accused service member wrongfully took, obtained, or withheld certain property from the possession of the owner;
  • That the property belonged to a certain person;
  • That the property was of a known value, or at least of some value; and
  • That the taking, obtaining, or withholding by the accused was with the intent permanently to deprive or defraud another person of the use and benefit of the property or permanently to appropriate the property for the use of the accused or for any person other than the rightful owner.

"Wrongful appropriation" is a "lessor included offense" of larceny. With wrongful appropriation, the accused only temporarily deprives the owner of the use of property. An example would be if a service member used another's computer without permission and then later returned the computer to the owner.