Published July, 2014

Unger v. Ziemniak, 27 M.J. 349, (C.M.A. 1989)

This case involves a female Navy officer who was charged with willfully disobeying a lawful order given to her by a superior. The order was for her to give a urine sample (for a drug test) under “direct observation” by another female service member, who was of a lower rank. She refused the order because, in her view, it constituted fraternization and demeaned her status as a Navy officer. She argued that requiring her to provide a urine sample under those conditions constituted an unreasonable seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment. 

The U.S. Court of Military Appeals Court concluded that because of the importance and scope of the drug-testing program in the armed services it was not unreasonable for the Navy to require direct observation when urine specimens were collected. The Court, however, also held that it must be determined whether an order given to a soldier required compliance under conditions that were “humiliating and degrading.” This seems to leave open the possibility that an otherwise lawful order would in fact be unlawful and considered illegal if it was determined that the order was to be carried out under humiliating and degrading conditions.