An Article 15 or “nonjudicial punishment” (NJP) refers to a form of administrative discipline that commanders may use to address Article 15 alleged transgressions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
In case of minor violations of the UCMJ, commanders must decide whether to offer an Article 15 or recommend the case for court-martial. If you are offered an Article 15, you will be read the charges levied against you by your commander. After that, you will be presented with the limited amount of proof that the Government holds against you at the time.
You will then have the opportunity to speak to a lawyer before deciding how you want to proceed and will need to respond to your commander within a specific number of duty days on whether you will “accept” Article 15, typically only two to three days.
In the same time duration, if you decide to accept Article 15, you will also need to develop your entire written defense for the commander. In addition, you will have the option to appear before the commander to present evidence and give a statement on the allegations. Subsequently, the commander will (theoretically) take all your responses and proof into consideration, along with the evidence against you, as they adjudge whether you are guilty or not.
Accepting an Article 15 or NJP
When encountered with this situation, many service members wonder whether they should accept an Article 15 and what they should evaluate before making a decision. People often think that “accepting” an Article 15 implies that they are admitting guilt.
But on accepting an Article 15, you are merely accepting the forum, i.e., you are stating that you will allow the issuing commander to be the judge and jury and determine whether you are guilty or not guilty of the alleged violation(s). If the commander judges that you are guilty, they alone will be in a position to determine your punishment.
In case the commander finds you guilty, they will decide your penalties. However, you can appeal your conviction and punishment with the next higher-ranking commander.
Effect of an Article 15
For many people, accepting an Article 15 is a risk management decision. Upon accepting an Article 15, you have mitigated risk in many respects. The worst scenario could involve you being convicted, punished, and discharged from the armed forces.
However, you will not risk going to prison, receiving a punitive discharge (such as a Bad Conduct Discharge or Dishonorable Discharge), or having a federal conviction on your record, all of which are only possible in the case of a court-martial.
While you may be avoiding the criminal facets associated with a potential conviction in a court-martial, the Article 15 punishment will certainly cause a significant financial impact. The loss of a single rank can easily cost you upwards of $3,000 annually.
You may also lose thousands of dollars with the forfeiture of pay for two months. Moreover, forced extra duty and restriction to barracks are almost certain punishments that can greatly affect your daily regimen.
Should I Turn Down My Article 15?
The option of “turning it down” is available to any person who is offered an Article 15. Statistically speaking, turning down an Article 15 and going to court-martial usually represent your most favorable chance to beat all allegations.
If you demand a court-martial, you will have enough time to prepare your defense, present your case before an impartial panel of members, and evaluate the evidence the Government holds against you. However, this decision does have associated risks of receiving confinement time, a punitive discharge, and other penalties, along with having a conviction on your record.
But, even if you are convicted at court-martial, you will be able to provide evidence that the Government initially offered you an Article 15 for the transgressions. Often, this results in jurors not punishing you any more than you would’ve received at the Article 15 level.
Many military judges will, in fact, ask the jurors not to punish you merely for deciding to demand trial by court-martial. On top of this, if you want to clear your name fully and save your military career, a court-martial is usually the more likely path to success.
Article 15 Non-judicial Punishment Attorneys
Irrespective of whether to decide to accept Article 15 or turn it down, the experienced defense lawyers at Anderson & Carnahan are here to help you throughout the process. If you decide to accept an Article 15, it is vital that you contact us as soon as possible to ensure that we can maximize our limited time to develop the most robust defense possible.
If you choose to turn down your Article 15 and ask for a court-martial, we will fight tirelessly to protect your rights. We will initiate trial preparation immediately, even if it takes time for the Government to bring formal charges against you. The bottom line is that your career is at stake. You only have a couple of days after this paperwork is served. So, do not wait. Call (719) 473-9099 for a free and confidential consultation.