Supreme Court: Retirees Can Be Court-Martialed for Crimes Committed After Service

Military retirees can face court martial for offenses committed AFTER they retire. This is decision is not really ground breaking, it’s maintaining the current and longstanding interpretation of this law.  The SCOTUS simply affirmed existing law by denying to consider an appeal in the case of Larrabee vs. United States.

The law in question 10 U.S.C. Section 802 defines who is subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Part of this law makes active duty retirees subject to the UCMJ even after they retire.  The law, originally from the 1950’s is based on the idea that you don’t ever really “retire” from active duty, but rather you shift to a standby status and your retirement check is not for past service but instead compensation to keep you on the rolls and subject to recall in the event of a full national mobilization. 

Even though it’s long been possible to prosecute military retirees, it seldom occurs. In this case, the Defendant committed an offense in Okinawa. The UCMJ gave the United States Government an avenue to prosecute with the most advantageous venue.  If the offense had occurred stateside, it’s highly unlikely the military would have sought to prosecute under the UCMJ.  

Note: This law does not apply to reservist or National Guard service members unless the alleged offense is committed while on active duty (and some other provisions of law are met).