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Understanding Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)

On Behalf of | Aug 12, 2022 | Criminal Defense

Not every misconduct by a member of the military warrants a court martial hearing. Sometimes, commanders can issue Article 15, also known as non-judicial punishment, to soldiers who violate UCMJ regulations that do not require a trial or violate local or federal laws.

If you get Article 15, it is crucial to be aware of how everything works to protect interests. Article 15 could affect your military career if you do not respond accordingly.

Understand why you have received Article 15

Non-judicial punishments follow an investigation into unlawful conduct by a member of the armed forces and a hearing to determine the deserving punishment. If the commanding officer determines that Article 15 is appropriate, they will inform you of the intended action alongside any supporting evidence. You will also be notified of your rights. Understanding the reasons behind your Article 15 action is crucial before deciding the way forward.

The potential penalties of a non-judicial punishment

Article 15 punishments are not severe compared to court-martial sentences. For instance, the custodial sentence, if any, cannot exceed eight days. Your rank may not be downgraded by more than one grade, nor can your pay be reduced by more than two-thirds for the month in which the offense occurred.

You can accept or refuse the non-judicial punishment

Accepting a non-judicial punishment is not an admission of guilt. However, you can choose to refuse Article 15 and demand a court-martial trial with a few exceptions. 

It is advisable to get experienced counsel before making the call to refuse or accept the non-judicial punishment. You may expose yourself to heftier penalties should you choose to go the court-martial way. While Article 15 will not necessarily derail your career, everything depends on making sure you have experienced legal guidance.