Understanding Article 15 of the UCMJ Articles

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When a member of the military is suspected of committing a minor violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), Command is authorized to move forward with a non-judicial punishment procedure by issuing an Article 15. While the lawyers at Military Trial Defenders are well-versed in all of the UCMJ articles, we spend a lot of our time answering questions about Article 15. Accordingly, we have compiled an Article 15 “crash course” to help explain the process.

Article 15 of the UCMJ

The 15th of the UCMJ articles offers commanders the jurisdiction to choose how to proceed in the case of military misconduct. If a member of the military commits a minor infraction, the commander is permitted to resolve the issue without resorting to court-martial procedures. When a commander imposes a non-judicial punishment on military personnel, the accused have the option to respond in one of two ways. They can either accept the Article 15, opting out of the traditional judicial process, or they can refuse it by demanding a court-martial.

Importantly, accepting an Article 15 is not an admittance of guilt. If a military member accepts an Article 15, the commander must give opportunity for the accused to express their side of the case. In a non-judicial proceeding, the commander serves as both the judge and the jury to determine if further discipline needs to occur.

Possible Article 15 Punishments

Receiving administrative punishment via an Article 15 hearing does not constitute a criminal conviction. It does, however, often go on the service record of the offender. A variety of punishments can stem from an Article 15 hearing. Possible punishments include loss of pay, reduction in rank, correctional custody, extra duties, and increased restrictions. The commanding officer also has the judiciary right to suspend a punishment by offering a type of probation. This probation is basically a period in which the offender is under strict review.

The Right to Counsel

Whether military personnel choose to refuse or accept an Article 15, a military lawyer is instrumental in cases of minor misconduct. If the service member chooses to move forward with a court-martial, he/she has the right to be represented by an attorney.

Service members do not have the option to be represented by an attorney if they accept an Article 15. But they do have the right to consult with an attorney. A military attorney can help the service member compile records, gather good character witnesses, and assemble a list of military performance achievements that will help his/her case.

An Military Attorney with Experience on the UCMJ Articles Can Help

If you have been issued an Article 15 and are unsure of how to proceed, start by speaking with a military attorney. A crash course on Article 15 may be an important part of the research process. But it’s not a substitute for a detailed conversation with an experienced military attorney. The lawyers at Military Trial Defenders understand the intricacies of the UCMJ articles, court-martial trials, and Article 15 cases. Contact the attorneys at Military Trial Defenders for counsel from skilled military attorneys.

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