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I have known a friend of mine for about seven years before

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I have known a friend of mine for about seven years before either one of us were in the military. We kept in loose contact, after a few years I graduated college and became a commissioned officer in the Marines, and she went on with her life. After a few years she enlisted in the Navy and we are stationed on the same island together but at different bases, and obviously different commands. We decided to catch up over drinks at a local officers club. One of her superiors saw her there and now she is facing fraternization charges because we had some drinks together. Is this something that can get us in big trouble?

Hello Joe,

My name isXXXXX a licensed attorney. I am honestly sorry for the circumstances, very much appreciate your patronage, and am glad to try and help out. Thank you for your military service!

Here's how this works. There are obviously differences, but just by way of analogy, think of a civilian criminal prosecution. The prosecutor bears the burden of proving the charge. Otherwise, it's merely an allegation and doesn't amount to a conviction of guilt. So, in this instance, there are also certain elements of the offense of fraternization to be proved. Specifically, we look to Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. One of those elements is that the accused be a warrant or commissioned officer, so obviously a formal prosecution for fraternization, at least in the classical or traditional sense of the word, would summarily fail against this female. That's good news. However, as with most instances in the law, there's a catch, so to speak. For this party, her conduct will be judged against this directive:

OPNAV Instruction 5370.2B, Navy Fraternization Policy

As to how her Command will proceed, of course, is entirely out of my personal knowledge. But, what you can do is to review the directive, try to objectively think about whether the meeting was unduly familiar and prejudicial, to get a feel for what may likely happen. What I'm trying to say is, there's drinks in a bar, and there's drinks in a bar. Walking through and happening to see an old friend, chatting a bit or whatever, is no problem. But, sitting together and engaging in some flirting or even close conversation, that's where the line gets blurred and suspicions are raised.

If you have a follow-up question or need clarification, please just say the word by using "reply" to reach me.

I truly hope all works out for you and the other party.

Take care,

Ben, J.D.

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Hello Joe,

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Please just let me know.


Ben, J.D.

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