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An Article 15 is a military justice option available to commanders pursuant to Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It is not a judicial (i.e. legal) proceeding, so it is sometimes also called “nonjudicial punishment.” It permits commanders to resolve allegations of minor misconduct against a Soldier without resorting to higher forms of discipline, such as a court-martial. In an Article 15, the commander (who is normally not a lawyer) hears the evidence, makes a determination of guilt or innocence, and imposes punishment. There is no trial counsel (prosecutor) and the accused does not have the right to be represented by defense counsel. However, the accused does have the right to consult with defense counsel beforehand. He may also retain a civilian attorney at his own expense. The accused may also refuse to accept the Article 15 and request trial by court-martial instead.
If you are facing an Article 15, you have the right to discuss your case with Trial Defense Services.
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There are three types of Article 15 proceedings:
Any company grade commander may administer this type of Article 15. Soldiers who are read a summarized Article 15 are not entitled to consult with a defense attorney. They may, however, turn down the Article 15 and demand trial by court-martial. The maximum punishment authorized at a summarized Article 15 is any combination of:
2. Company Grade.
Any company grade commander may administer this type of Article 15. The maximum punishment authorized at a company grade Article 15 is any combination of:
3. Field Grade.
A commander in the rank of major or above may administer this type of Article 15. The maximum punishment authorized at a field grade Article 15 is:
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Should I accept the Article 15 rather than demand trial by court-martial?
Answer: It depends on your case. Consult with your defense counsel. Soldiers often accept Article 15s because possible maximum punishments at an Article 15 are much lower than what a court-martial could adjudge. For example, you cannot be sentenced to confinement at an Article 15 hearing. Also if found guilty at an Article 15 hearing, you would still not have a federal or state conviction. Additionally, most Article 15s (especially first time Article 15s for minor offenses) will not affect your ability to remain in the Army. Court-martial convictions can result in discharge, either by a punitive discharge adjudged by the court or administrative discharge after the court-martial.
Question: If I agree to accept the Article 15, am I admitting guilt?
Answer: No, you are only agreeing to let your commander decide whether you are guilty and, if guilty, what punishment you should receive. If you plead not guilty, your commander must listen to your side of the case. You may present your own case or have a non-lawyer act as your spokesperson. You can present witnesses or other evidence (such as statements, police reports, pictures, and diagrams) on your behalf to help explain your side of the story. You may also present evidence regarding your duty performance, reputation for truthfulness or honesty, and other facts that indicate you are not guilty or deserving of a light sentence. You must decide whether to present matters in your defense, mitigation, or extenuation. Evidence in your defense would be something related directly to the offense you have been charged with that show you are not guilty of it. Mitigation refers to testimony or statements from people that know you as to your character, performance of duty, or other positive aspect about you. Extenuation, regards circumstance related to the offense, which tend to make the offense less severe (like an excuse).
Question: If I am found guilty at the Article 15, when does the punishment begin?
Answer: Usually the punishment begins immediately, even if you appeal the Article 15. The commander may delay starting the punishment under certain circumstances (leave, illness, AWOL, field exercise).
Question: What is suspended punishment?
Answer: Your commander may suspend any or all punishment for a period not to exceed six months. If the punishment is suspended, it does not take affect. You are, in essence, on "probation" for the suspension period. As long as you do not engage in any misconduct, the suspended punishment will not take affect. However, if you engage in misconduct of any kind, the commander can withdraw (vacate) the suspension and the original punishment takes effect. You do not have a right to contest or appeal the vacation of the suspension. Furthermore, the violation action will not preclude further judicial or nonjudicial punishment for the same misconduct.
Question: Can I appeal the decision my commander makes at the Article 15 proceeding?
Answer: If you are found guilty during an Article 15 hearing, you have the right to appeal to the next higher commander. For example, if the imposing commander is your company commander, the appellate authority is usually the battalion commander. The appeal must be submitted within five days of your hearing. There are three grounds for appeal: (1) there was not enough evidence to find you guilty; (2) the punishment imposed was too severe; or (3) the commander did not follow proper procedures. The commander considering your appeal can overturn a finding of guilty, lessen the punishment or keep the punishment the same. The commander acting on your appeal cannot make your punishment more severe.
Question: How do I appeal?
Answer: You appeal by checking the appropriate block on Line 7 of DA Form 2627 immediately after your imposing commander announces your punishment. He will ask you whether you want to appeal. If you wish to appeal, it is recommended that you check Block 7(c) which states "I appeal and submit additional matters." If you are not sure if you want to appeal, we recommend you go ahead and check the "I appeal" block. If you appeal, you should check Block 7(c) and provide written statements to support your position because you are not entitled to any personal appearance in front of the appeal authority (although you may request one). If you don't submit these statements from yourself and the others who spoke for you at the original hearing, the appeal authority may never get your side of what happened. If you've been given restriction or extra duty as a punishment and you appeal, you should request that your restriction and extra duty be suspended if the appeal takes more than five days to come down. If you so request and the appeal is not decided within 5 days, the extra duty and restriction imposed MUST be suspended until the appeal is decided. A memo is attached for you to make this request.
Question: Will a finding of guilty at an Article 15 hearing be filed in my military records?
Answer: A finding of guilty at an Article 15 hearing will be filed in your military records; however, the rules vary depending on your rank. If you are in the grade of E4 and below, the Article 15 will be filed locally in non-judicial punishment files. The Article 15 will be destroyed two years from the date of imposition or upon your PCS/ETS, whichever occurs first. If you are in the grade of E-5 or above, the imposing commander will determine whether the Article 15 will be filed in either the restricted or performance fiche of your Official Military Personnel File (OMPF). Article 15s filed in your OMPF will likely have adverse affects on your future military career. Consult the Trial Defense Service for more details regarding the career ramifications of this important filing determination.
Question: Where can I get additional information about Article 15's?
Answer: The Article 15 process is discussed in detail in Chapter 3 of FNG REG 27-10, Part V of the Manual for Courts-Martial and in Chapter 3 of AR 27-10.