Punitive Articles of the UCMJ - Article 89

Article 89: Disrespect Toward a Superior Commissioned Officer

Army Officer
Enlisted Troops.


Disrespecting anyone up or down the chain of command is not recommended in the military. In fact, people lose their monthly salary, confinement for up to a year, and a reduction in discharge paperwork can occur if bad enough. Disrespecting any, especially a higher ranking official, typically happens to members who cannot control their temper and lack the discipline to acknowledge discrepancies in civil discourse. The military prides itself on discipline and military order. Disrespecting a senior official can cause leadership failures to worsen to levels that render a group ineffective. When you have a grievance with someone up the chain of command, handle it with maturity, logic, and keep the emotions that can drive us all to do things we regret.

The Official Text of the Offence:

“Any person subject to this chapter who behaves with disrespect toward his superior commissioned officer shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”


(1) That the accused did or omitted certain acts or used certain language to or concerning a certain commissioned officer;

(2) That such behavior or language was directed toward that officer;

(3) That the officer toward whom the acts, omissions, or words were directed was the superior commissioned officer of the accused;

(4) That the accused then knew that the commissioned officer toward whom the acts, omissions, or words were directed was the accused’s superior commissioned officer; and

(5) That, under the circumstances, the behavior or language was disrespectful to that commissioned officer.


(1) Superior commissioned officer.

(a) Accused and victim in same armed force. If the accused and the victim are in the same armed force, the victim is a “superior commissioned officer” of the accused when either superior in rank or command to the accused; however, the victim is not a “superior commissioned officer”of the accused if the victim is inferior in command, even though superior in rank.

(b) Accused and victim in different armed forces. If the accused and the victim are in different armed forces, the victim is a “superior commissioned officer” of the accused when the victim is a commissioned officer and superior in the chain of command over the accused or when the victim, not a medical officer or a chaplain, is senior in grade to the accused and both are detained by a hostile entity so that recourse to the normal chain of command is prevented. The victim is not a “superior commissioned officer” of the accused merely because the victim is superior in grade to the accused.

(c) Execution of office. It is not necessary that the “superior commissioned officer” be in the execution of office at the time of the disrespectful behavior.

(2) Knowledge. If the accused did not know that the person against whom the acts or words were directed was the accused’s superior commissioned officer, the accused may not be convicted of a violation of this article. Knowledge may be proved by circumstantial evidence.

(3) Disrespect. Disrespectful behavior is that which detracts from the respect due the authority and person of a superior commissioned officer. It may consist of acts or language, however, expressed, and it is immaterial whether they refer to the superior as an officer or as a private individual. Disrespect by words may be conveyed by abusive epithets or other contemptuous or denunciatory language. The truth is no defense. Disrespect by acts includes neglecting the customary salute or showing a marked disdain, indifference, insolence, impertinence, undue familiarity, or other rudeness in the presence of the superior officer.

(4) Presence. It is not essential that the disrespectful behavior is in the presence of the superior, but ordinarily, one should not be held accountable under this article for what was said or done in a purely private conversation.

(5) Special defense—unprotected victim. A superior commissioned officer whose conduct in relation to the accused under all the circumstances departs substantially from the required standards appropriate to that officer’s rank or position under similar circumstances loses the protection of this article. That accused may not be convicted of being disrespectful to the officer who has so lost the entitlement to respect protected by Article 89.

Lesser included offenses.

(1) Article 117—provoking speeches or gestures

(2) Article 80—attempts

Maximum punishment.

Bad-conduct discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 1 year.

Next Article> Article 90-Assaulting or willfully disobeying superior commissioned officer >

Above Information from Manual for Court Martial, 2002, Chapter 4, Paragraph 13