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Should I accept or fight an Article 15?

On Behalf of | Sep 28, 2022 | Military Law |

If you receive an Article 15 notification, your commanding officer believes you have violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Article 15 usually involves minor offenses similar to misdemeanors in a civilian court.

Article 15 is a nonjudicial process, meaning commanding officers have the authority to address violations without commencing outside judicial proceedings, such as a court-martial. Depending on the situation, it is advisable to consult with an experienced military defense lawyer before deciding to accept the allegations.

Offenses that can result in punishment

Under the UCMJ, Article 15 allows commanding officers to punish service members for alleged offenses that do not likely warrant a court-martial, but believe they deserve harsher punishment than administrative counseling. These offenses include:

  • Disrespecting superior officers
  • Underage drinking
  • Sleeping on duty
  • Disobeying orders

Understand that being charged with disobeying orders can rise to the level of a court-martial offense, such as if the disobedience occurs during battle or training conditions, thereby putting lives at risk.

How the process works

Under Article 15, the commanding officer must inform the service member and offer nonjudicial proceedings. They must reveal the alleged misconduct, provide supporting evidence and notify the individual of their rights under the UCMJ.

The servicemember can accept Article 15 without admitting guilt, allowing their commander to decide guilt or innocence. However, you can also fight the allegations, which could result in a court-martial proceeding.

Punishments under Article 15

Commanding officers also have the discretion to determine punishment, which is typically much less severe than in judicial proceedings. Much depends on the individual’s rank, but for enlisted personnel, punishments include:

  • Extra duties
  • Confinement
  • Reduction in rank
  • Pay forfeitures

Pay reductions are usually limited to a maximum of two months. Commanders can also suspend punishment for up to one year, providing the service member meets the terms of the suspended sentence.

Appeals are possible

Military members have five days to appeal the ruling from an Article 15 hearing to the next highest-ranking officer. Appeals can result for lack of evidence, or you believe the punishment is too severe for the offense or because the commander did not follow the correct procedure.

While Article 15 punishments are generally less harsh, they can still affect your military career. Consulting a knowledgeable military law defense attorney can help you determine whether you have a strong case before you decide whether to accept or fight an Article 15.