Loving v. United States, 517 U.S. 748, 22 (1996)

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Cite as: 517 U. S. 748 (1996)

Opinion of the Court

diction of the crime of murder. Cf. Solorio, supra, at 450- 451 (Congress may extend court-martial jurisdiction to any criminal offense committed by a service member during his period of service). It further declared the law that service members who commit premeditated and felony murder may be sentenced to death by a court-martial. There is nothing in the constitutional scheme or our traditions to prohibit Congress from delegating the prudent and proper implementation of the capital murder statute to the President acting as Commander in Chief.


Having held that Congress has the power of delegation, we further hold that it exercised the power in Articles 18 and 56 of the UCMJ. Article 56 specifies that "[t]he punishment which a court-martial may direct for an offense may not exceed such limits as the President may prescribe for that offense." 10 U. S. C. 856. Article 18 states that a court-martial "may, under such limitations as the President may prescribe, adjudge any punishment not forbidden by [the UCMJ], including the penalty of death when specifically authorized by" the Code. 818. As the Court of Military Appeals pointed out in Curtis, for some decades the President has used his authority under these Articles to increase the penalties for certain noncapital offenses if aggravating circumstances are present. For example, by regulation, deserters who are apprehended are punished more severely than those who surrender; drunken drivers suffer a harsher fate if they cause an accident resulting in the death of a victim; and the punishment of thieves is graded by the value of the stolen goods. See Curtis, 32 M. J., at 261. The President has thus provided more precision in sentencing than is provided by the statute, while remaining within statutory bounds. This past practice suggests that Articles 18 and 56 support as well an authority in the President to restrict the death sentence to murders in which certain aggravating circumstances have been established.


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