Commanders in the military may choose to discipline service members through “non-judicial punishment.” These are referred to as Article 15’s or Captain’s Mast, depending on your branch of service.
Under Article 15, Uniform Code of Military Justice, a commander may reduce certain members in pay grade, cause a forfeiture in some pay, restrict the member to a certain area, and may even sentence the member to extra duty. Depending on the level of the commander, the periods of restriction and/or extra duty may last up to 45 days.
Article 15 proceedings, like courts martial, are hearings in which the commander is required to make a finding of innocence or guilt. You have a right to plead Not Guilty at an Article 15 hearing. You also have the right to request that the commander hear from witnesses on your behalf. Punishment at an Article 15 hearing only comes if you have been found guilty beyond reasonable doubt by your commander. If found guilty, you are entitled to an appeal of the commander’s decision.
Article 15’s are a two-part proceeding. The first part you are read the charges in which you face. Then, you are given time to consult with an attorney. After completion of that period, and meeting with an attorney, you appear before the commander to make your election whether to proceed with an Article 15. You should be aware that you have a right to “turn down” the Article 15 and instead insist on a trial by court-martial. This decision should only be made after a thorough consultation with an attorney.
An Article 15, depending on the commander’s discretion, may be filed into your official records, which may greatly impact your ability to advance in pay grade. In some cases, the Article 15 may give the command justification to initiate a separation board to remove you from the military.
If you are charged in an Article 15 proceeding, you should take the matter very seriously. At The Carlson Law Firm, our attorneys are experienced in trying cases at court martial and appearing at Article 15 proceedings for soldiers. Several of our attorneys have served in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps and have developed the very skills and experience needed to zealously represent service members in these proceedings. If you are charged in an Article 15, a court martial, or there is a pending investigation, you should call us immediately.