The full court-martial process can, at times, feel like more than is necessary for minor violations. To prevent overcrowding in the system, the UCMJ, which provides laws and regulations for the military, allows for an alternative in Article 15. This is a process that is offered to service members as an alternative to going through the full court-martial process. However, it’s important to note that this process is not imposed upon them but rather a choice. While it doesn’t offer the full protections and procedures of a court-martial, it may have fewer consequences if you are found to be guilty of the alleged misconduct. Even though it is not a full court-martial, there are still ways that someone offered Article 15 may benefit from working with a military lawyer, if only just to understand the full scope of options before them, should they choose to accept Article 15 or to reject it.
If you accept an Article 15, it is not an admission of guilt. It is merely an acceptance that you are not going to follow the court-martial process but rather the alternative. In this alternative, you are having the commander offering Article 15 act as judge and jury in your case. You are, though, given the opportunity to make a case for yourself.
You may make an argument as to why you aren’t guilty of the alleged misconduct. You may also make the case that you shouldn’t be punished or should receive a lighter punishment for your offenses. To this end, you may present evidence and call witnesses. The witnesses may provide testimony as to whether you committed the misconduct. They could also be character witnesses, testifying as to why the misconduct is not reflective of your character, not something you would be expected to do again, and why you should receive a lighter sentence. You may also choose to remain silent if you wish. Whether you can have a military lawyer represent you is service-dependent. However, it may be valuable to have a military lawyer help you prepare the case that you bring before your commander.
If you are found to have committed the misconduct, you will likely receive what are known as non-judicial punishments, which can include extra duty, restrictions, pay forfeiture, and pay grade reduction.
A: Take the time to thoroughly read through what you’ve been given. Before you accept or reject it, understand that it is not an admission of guilt to accept it. You are basically choosing which process by which you would like your alleged violations to be addressed. It’s possible that the punishments from the Article 15 process may be lighter, but it doesn’t necessarily offer the thoroughness that the court-martial process gives.
It’s important to understand the full scope of the situation, as the Article 15 punishments can still have a negative impact on your military career. It would be a good idea to speak with a military lawyer about your situation before deciding what you want to do.
A: The punishments for Article 15 will likely vary depending upon the nature of the infractions that are being addressed, along with any other mitigating or relevant factors. It’s impossible to predict what exactly might be received, though there are two sets of maximum punishments that depend upon who is administering them.
Company grade punishments are those given by a lieutenant or captain (0-3) and can be a maximum of:
Field grade punishments are those given by a major/lieutenant commander or higher and can be a maximum of:
A: In some situations, the imposing officer may make the choice to suspend the Article 15 punishments. Typically, this involves the officer determining what an appropriate punishment is, but instead of imposing them, they hold off for an assigned period of time. If, during that time, the individual doesn’t engage in any further misconduct, the imposing officer may then dismiss the punishment altogether. However, if the individual does commit any further misconduct, the suspension of the punishments will likely be lifted and begin immediately.
A: There is an appeals process for Article 15 decisions, which involves appealing to a higher commanding officer. The decision to appeal must typically be made within five days. In these cases, punishments of restriction and extra duty will usually begin as soon as they are imposed and not wait for the appeal process. However, punishments involving forfeitures and rank reductions are usually held until after the appeal process is completed.
It may not readily seem like an Article 15 is something that a military lawyer can help with. Thinking like that, though, may mean facing consequences that could hurt your career when you don’t need to be facing them. In some cases, a military lawyer may be able to represent you through the Article 15 process, where evidence and witnesses may be presented. If not, then a lawyer might be able to help you prepare for that process.
At the very least, you should meet with a lawyer before deciding to accept Article 15 or choose the full court-martial process. A lawyer can help you understand the full scope of what you are facing. At The Law Center P.C., we can help with all aspects of Article 15 concerns. If you’ve been offered Article 15, contact us today for help.