Petraeus affair brings up adultery under military law

JACKSONVILLE - Former CIA Director David Petraeus could potentially be charged with adultery for his extramarital affair with biographer Paula Broadwell if it's discovered the affair began before he retired from the U.S. Army.

Controversy over the affair continues to swirl.  There's debate over who knew what and whether national security was breached.  Petraeus admitted to the affair with Broadwell and resigned from his position Friday.

Under Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, adultery is considered a crime by the military. The statute states that having an affair brings discredit upon the armed forces. 

Legal experts said adultery is a crime the military frequently prosecutes. 

"With a charge like this, it can go anywhere from informal verbal counseling, all the way to charges that are leveled at a court-martial," said Scott B. Jack, a Jacksonville-based military defense attorney.

Jack, a retired Lieutenant Colonel and military judge, served in the Marine Corps for 25 years.  Jack said whether a service member is prosecuted depends heavily upon the specific facts of the case.

Petraeus could be on the hook if the affair happened while he was active-duty in the Army. A spokesperson for Petraeus has stated publicly the affair began after Petraeus retired. 

Jack said an adultery charge would be very unlikely in that situation but legally possible.  "It is possible that someone could be recalled to active duty and be charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice," said Jack, "especially if a service member retired to avoid negative repercussions. 

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