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6 weird laws unique to the US military

U.S. troops obey a set of legal guidelines called the Uniform Code of Military Justice. While the UCMJ mirrors civilian law in many ways, there are some laws on the military books that are unique and somewhat bizarre.


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Here's a sampling of six of them:

6. Dueling

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Sorry, all you potential Aaron Burrs. Dueling isn't allowed in the U.S. military. You cannot pull out your sword, pistol, or even your fists and challenge someone who has wronged you to a duel. According to the manual, "Any person subject to this chapter who fights or promotes, or is concerned in or connives at fighting a duel, or who, having knowledge of a challenge sent or about to be sent, fails to report the fact promptly to the proper authority, shall be punished as a court-martial may direct."

Maximum punishment: Dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 1 year.

5. Drinking liquor with prisoners

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If you're standing post and guarding a prisoner, you aren't supposed to give him or her booze. We thought this one was pretty weird, but the existence of such a law makes us think that someone, somewhere, must have actually done this one. But, umm, why?

Maximum punishment: Confinement for 3 months and forfeiture of two-thirds pay per month for 3 months.

4. Indecent language

Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Darien G. Kenney/US Navy

Profanity and dirty jokes are a crime, at least in the U.S. military. We've all heard the phrase "cuss like a sailor," but that sailor can actually be busted for having a potty mouth. According to the manual, "'Indecent' language is that which is grossly offensive to modesty, decency, or propriety, or shocks the moral sense, because of its vulgar, filthy, or disgusting nature, or its tendency to incite lustful thought."

This one probably isn't enforced all that often, but it does carry some stiff punishments when it is.

Maximum punishment: Communicated to any child under the age of 16 years: Dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 2 years. Other cases: Bad-conduct discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 6 months.

3. Jumping from vessel into the water

Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William Jamieson/US Navy

If you accidentally fall off a ship, you won't get in trouble. But if you take a plunge intentionally, there can be some consequences. If you plan on taking a dip, make sure your commander says it's ok first.

Maximum punishment: Bad-conduct discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 6 months.

2. Adultery

Photo: Dollar Photo Club

Cheating on your spouse can get you kicked out of the military altogether, among other possible punishments. While not a unique law to the military — 21 states have anti-adultery laws on the books that are rarely enforced — commanders do sometimes charge service members with this crime.

Still, adultery charges are a bit hard to stick, since they can be difficult to prove, according to About.com.

Maximum punishment: Dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 1 year.

1. Straggling

Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./USAF

Troops who fall behind or lose their way on marches or runs can find themselves in legal trouble. While a straggler on a hike is often just told to "hurry up" and motivated to continue by their non-commissioned officers, this offense is punishable under the UCMJ. "'Straggle' means to wander away, to stray, to become separated from, or to lag or linger behind," the manual states.

Maximum punishment: Confinement for 3 months and forfeiture of two-thirds pay per month for 3 months.

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