The Choice To Refuse, or Accept, An Article 15

An Article 15 is a punitive measure that can have far-reaching consequences for your military career. You can make the best possible decision regarding an Article 15 by being aware of the advantages and disadvantages of each one and knowing what your options are .

To aid you in understanding law and policy related to Article 15, the military defense attorneys at The Griffin Law Firm explain more below.

What Is Article 15?

The basic definition of Article 15 is a “commanding officer’s non-judicial punishment.” Non-judicial punishment in the military has roots going back to the Revolutionary War. In 1775, the Continental Congress authorized “captain’s mast,” a proceeding whereby sailors could be punished by their commanding officers pursuant to vague or unspecified limitations. Later, Congress passed the Articles of War, which gave Army commanders similar authority, like the ability to restrict liberty, give extra duty, and issue reprimands. In 1916, that authority was extended to punish officers as well. In 1950, legislation was passed that clarified what conduct warranted what punishment (and for what rank), and it helped lay the foundation for what would become Article 15 of the UCMJ in 1956. In 1962, Article 15 was amended both to expand the authority of commanders in all branches to handle minor disciplinary problems and provide safeguards to servicemembers, like the ability to appeal and request court martial.

Disputes over the constitutionality of Article 15 were addressed in the 1976 Supreme Court case of Middendorf v. Henry. In that case, David Henry, a Navy sailor, challenged his non-judicial punishment on the ground that it violated his Fifth Amendment right to due process because he was being punished without trial. In a 6-3 decision, the Court held that Henry’s rights were not violated because Article 15 proceedings are not criminal trials but merely administrative proceedings aimed at upholding standards of military discipline.

Receiving Article 15 can lead to the following outcomes:

  • A reduction in your military rank.
  • A fine that you must pay.
  • A new set of duties you must satisfy.
  • A restriction to your personal freedom.

None of these outcomes are ideal. But, they serve the goal of Article 15, which is to punish military servicemembers who are alleged to have committed an act equivalent to criminal conduct but which does not rise to the level that would warrant a court-martial.

You can choose to turn down or accept an Article 15. To determine which option is right, you must be aware of the advantages and disadvantages that come from both options.

What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Refusing Article 15?

Several advantages and disadvantages can come from turning down Article 15. Some of the most notable benefits that can come from turning down Article 15 are as follows:

  • The jury/judge must be convinced, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you are guilty.
  • The burden of proof underlying the above is extremely high.
  • The jury/judge may be less biased against you than your commander.

However, turning down an Article 15 can also come with the following disadvantages:

  • A failure to obtain a “Not Guilty” verdict will lead to a recorded federal conviction.
  • A federal conviction will impact your ability to get a job outside of the military.
  • A “Guilty” verdict can lead to immediate discharge proceedings being filed against you.

Thus, the act of turning down Article 15 offers many advantages; but, the disadvantages must not be ignored.

If you want to turn down Article 15, it is imperative that you secure adequate legal representation. You must speak with a lawyer who can assist you in obtaining the best possible legal outcome.

What Are the Advantages And Disadvantages Of Accepting Article 15?

Just like turning down an Article 15, a variety of advantages and disadvantages can come from accepting an Article 15. Some of the most notable advantages that come from accepting Article 15 are as follows:

  • You will not face a federal conviction for the conduct you have been accused of.
  • You can only be punished in certain, limited ways.

Outside of those advantages, accepting Article 15 comes with the following disadvantages:

  • You will receive a punishment that can affect your duties, rank, pay, or freedom.
  • You can no longer demand a trial.
  • You allow your commander to determine if you are guilty.

Even though accepting Article 15 offers several advantages, the punishments that you can receive by accepting Article 15 make turning it down an option worth considering.

Speak With A Military Defense Lawyer Today

In short, while it may seem prudent to accept an Article 15, this doesn’t mean you should. You are legally entitled to a trial, and if you choose to pursue one, you will need legal representation.

Speak with a Virginia military defense lawyer at The Griffin Law Firm today, and we will help to answer questions you undoubtedly have, and assist you in obtaining the best possible legal outcome no matter what option you choose.

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