Have you been offered nonjudicial punishment? Do you now have a limited amount of time to decide if you want to accept it or turn it down? The first step to making a decision is understanding what an Article 15 actually is. Read below to find out.
Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice is a unique form of punishment in the military. Known by a variety of different names, including “NJP” or “Captain’s Mast,” an Article 15 is generally reserved for lesser offenses where court-martial is not appropriate.
Make no mistake, as the name explicitly says, it is punishment with significant consequences on the line, such as loss of pay and loss of rank (for enlisted members). Commanders are in charge of the Article 15 process. The different punishments on the line are dictated by the rank of the commander and the rank of the person receiving the Article 15. For example, an O-3 commander punishing an E-5 will have different options than an O-5 commander punishing an E-5.
A person who is offered an Article 15 must actually agree to receive it. The person is not necessarily agreeing they are guilty of misconduct; they are just agreeing to the forum, i.e., they are trusting their commander’s judgment. Thus, a person can actually accept an Article 15 forum, but present evidence and prove they are not guilty of the alleged misconduct. There are a lot of creative ways to present your case at an Article 15, so long as you have an experienced attorney who knows what they are doing.
A person can refuse an Article 15 as well. This is risky, but may occasionally be the best option. If a person refuses an Article 15 for certain alleged misconduct, the person does not have a guarantee to go to court-martial on that alleged misconduct. Another way to think of it is that the person is not opting in to a court-martial; instead, they are opting out of an Article 15 for that specific misconduct. The commander can choose a different form of punishment other than Article 15. The military service can continue its investigation and perhaps find additional misconduct. Or the military can even add misconduct it already knows about and send everything to a court-martial. There are a lot of variables that your attorney should be able to discuss with you.
Being offered an Article 15 can be a scary, overwhelming experience. Your career may hang in the balance. No matter what, it is important to have someone in your corner who you can trust. Someone who can advocate for you. And someone who isn’t afraid to stand-up against overwhelming odds.
As a former active duty JAG officer and two-time defense counsel in the Air Force, Ross Brennan at Cronauer Law is a seasoned advocate who is passionate about defending military members. Contact Cronauer Law today for a free consultation.