Do You Need a Lawyer to Fight an Article 15?

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In the disciplined environment of the military, adhering to rules and regulations is paramount. However, when a service member is accused of a minor infraction or misconduct, they may face what is known as an Article 15, or non-judicial punishment.

Non-Judicial Punishment | NJP in the Military

The implications of receiving an Article 15 can range from a simple reprimand to more severe consequences like reduction in rank or forfeiture of pay. Understanding the nature of Article 15 and the potential repercussions is critical for any service member. It’s equally important to know your legal rights and options, including whether to seek legal counsel to defend against these charges.

UCMJ Article 15 Definition

Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice grants commanders the ability to administer non-judicial punishment to enlisted personnel for minor offenses. The goal is to maintain discipline and order within the unit while providing a prompt means of justice. Article 15 proceedings can be categorized into three types: Summarized, Company, and Field Grade, each varying in the severity of possible punishments. Unlike a court-martial, an Article 15 does not constitute a criminal conviction, but the outcomes can still significantly impact a military career.

It is crucial for service members to understand the differences between accepting an Article 15 and being tried at a court-martial. An Article 15 is more administrative and can offer a quicker resolution with potentially less severe penalties than a court-martial. However, accepting an Article 15 means waiving the right to a trial by jury, and the decisions made can still affect promotions, clearances, and future assignments. For those contemplating the implications of an Article 15, it’s advisable to review the specifics of the allegations and consider the long-term effects on your military career.

10 U.S. Code § 815 – Art. 15. Commanding officer’s non-judicial punishment

(a) Under such regulations as the President may prescribe, and under such additional regulations as may be prescribed by the Secretary concerned, limitations may be placed on the powers granted by this article with respect to the kind and amount of punishment authorized, the categories of commanding officers and warrant officers exercising command authorized to exercise those powers, the applicability of this article to an accused who demands trial by court-martial, and the kinds of courts-martial to which the case may be referred upon such a demand. However, except in the case of a member attached to or embarked in a vessel, punishment may not be imposed upon any member of the armed forces under this article if the member has, before the imposition of such punishment, demanded trial by court-martial in lieu of such punishment. Under similar regulations, rules may be prescribed with respect to the suspension of punishments authorized hereunder. If authorized by regulations of the Secretary concerned, a commanding officer exercising general court-martial jurisdiction or an officer of general or flag rank in command may delegate his powers under this article to a principal assistant. Full statute listed at

Article 15 NJP Punishment Chart

We compiled this Article 15 Punishment Chart for educational purposes only and it should not be relied upon as valid legal advice. Contact a licensed JAG lawyer to discuss your specific Article 15 case and possible punishment.

Punishment Company Grade Field Grade
Restriction Up to 14 days Up to 60 days
Extra Duty Up to 14 days Up to 45 days
Pay Forfeiture Up to 7 days Up to half pay for 2 months
Rank Reduction (E4 and below) One grade reduction One grade reduction
Rank Reduction (E5 and E6) One grade reduction One or two grade reductions
Rank Reduction (E7 and up) Not applicable One grade reduction (case by case)


Should I Accept Article 15 or Request a Court Martial?

Deciding whether to accept an Article 15 or to request a court-martial is a choice that should be based on a thorough evaluation of the evidence against you, the potential impact on your career, and the likelihood of a favorable outcome. While an Article 15 may result in a quicker and potentially less severe resolution, a court-martial provides the opportunity for a more formal and potentially fair trial but comes with the risk of harsher penalties if convicted.

Consulting with a military lawyer is crucial in making this decision. An attorney can provide a realistic assessment of the case against you and help weigh the pros and cons of each option. Understanding these factors and carefully considering your career and personal circumstances are essential steps in determining the best course of action. If notified of an Article 15, it’s advisable to review all options with your lawyer to determine the most appropriate response based on the specifics of your case.

When Should I turn down NJP and accept court martial?

You should turn down NJP and request court martial if an informed analysis of your situation reveals that court martial is the better option. It is not uncommon for certain commands to come up with completely ridiculous reasons to send their soldiers, airmen, sailors, marines, guardians, and coast guardsmen to NJP. Sometimes what seems like a legitimate reason to Article 15 someone would be laughed out of court martial.

lawyer for article 15 njpUltimately, you should discuss the situation with your attorney to decide whether requesting court martial is the better option.

You can turn down non-judicial punishment and demand trial by court martial. If you turn down the Article 15, then your command can send you to (1) summary court martial, (2) special court martial, or (3) general court martial, which can carry more significant punishment than NJP if you are found guilty.

Summary Court Martial Punishment Chart

The range of possible punishments vary at the different levels of court martial. We have compiled this summary court martial punishment chart for educational purposes only and it should not be relied upon as valid legal advice. Contact a military crime lawyer to discuss your specific situation.

Punishment Maximum Allowable
Confinement Up to 30 days
Hard Labor Without Confinement Up to 45 days
Forfeiture of Pay Up to two-thirds pay per month for one month
Reduction in Rank Enlisted members may be reduced to the lowest pay grade (E-1)


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The Role of Article 15 Lawyers

Although not mandatory, having legal representation during an Article 15 proceeding can be highly advantageous. A military lawyer specialized in UCMJ matters can offer guidance and advocacy that might be pivotal in reducing the severity of the punishment or even dismissing the case. Legal experts can negotiate on your behalf, present evidence, and cross-examine witnesses, activities that might be challenging to handle alone.

The presence of a lawyer can also ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process. Many service members might not be fully aware of the intricacies involved in an Article 15 or the potential defenses available. A skilled lawyer can navigate these complexities and work towards a favorable outcome. If facing an Article 15, contacting a military lawyer promptly to discuss the specifics of your case can make a significant difference in the proceedings.

Strategies for Defending Against an Article 15

Defending against an Article 15 requires a strategic approach tailored to the specifics of the accusation. Effective defense strategies often involve questioning the evidence provided, leveraging inconsistencies in witness testimonies, or proving mitigating circumstances. Gathering relevant documents, communications, and statements from witnesses can provide crucial support to your defense.

A competent military lawyer will know how to assemble this information into a compelling defense. They can help articulate the context of the incident, potentially shifting the commander’s understanding and assessment of the situation. This could lead to reduced penalties or, in some cases, complete dismissal of the charges. Service members should actively participate in their defense by providing their attorney with all pertinent information and any evidence that could demonstrate their side of the story or mitigate the accusations.

How to Fight an Article 15 and Win

HOW TO FIGHT AN ARTICLE 15 IN THE ARMYTo fight an Article 15, it’s important to understand your rights under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and to utilize the right to refuse the Article 15 process in favor of a court-martial, where you can contest the charges more formally. If you choose to proceed with the Article 15 hearing, you can present evidence, call witnesses, and testify on your own behalf to challenge the accusations.

It’s advisable to seek the assistance of a military defense attorney who can help prepare your defense, represent you during the hearing, and ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process. Thorough preparation and professional legal representation are key components in effectively fighting an Article 15.

Find Article 15 Lawyer Near By

Facing an Article 15 can be a daunting prospect, but understanding your rights and options is key to navigating this challenge effectively. Whether to accept the punishment or fight the charges is a decision that should not be taken lightly.

Legal representation can provide invaluable support, offering both a defense strategy and peace of mind during the process. For service members going through this, the first step should be to consult with a military lawyer who can provide tailored advice and vigorous defense. Act promptly and know that with the right support, you can manage the situation with confidence and protect your military career.

UCMJ Article 15 Attorney FAQ

What does an Article 15 do to your career?

Receiving an Article 15 can have significant impacts on a military career. It might lead to a reduction in rank, forfeiture of pay, and a record of non-judicial punishment that can affect future promotions and assignments. Such a record may also influence performance evaluations and decisions about career advancements. While not as severe as a court-martial conviction, an Article 15 can still hinder professional growth and opportunities within the military. Therefore, it’s crucial to handle such proceedings carefully and consider potential long-term consequences.

Can you get rid of an Article 15?

Removing an Article 15 from a military record is challenging but possible under certain circumstances. The process typically involves filing a request for removal with the Army Board for Correction of Military Records (ABCMR) or the equivalent board for other branches. The service member must demonstrate that the Article 15 was unjust or that it was placed on their record in error. It’s important to provide compelling evidence and a strong justification for the removal. Success in these cases can vary, and often legal advice or assistance might be necessary to navigate the process effectively.

Can you go to jail for an Article 15?

No, you cannot go to jail for an Article 15, as it is a form of non-judicial punishment within the military and does not include confinement as a possible outcome. The penalties for an Article 15 typically involve corrective measures such as reduction in rank, forfeiture of pay, extra duties, or restrictions, but not imprisonment. Article 15 is intended to address minor disciplinary issues within the unit without resorting to the more severe measures of a court-martial.

Can you appeal an Article 15?

Yes, you can appeal an Article 15 decision if you believe the punishment was unjust or disproportionate. The appeal must be made to the next higher command level, and it should be submitted in writing, stating the reasons for the appeal. The commanding officer who imposed the Article 15 will forward the appeal along with their recommendations. The appeal authority has the power to lessen the punishment but not increase it. Appeals should be made promptly as there are typically time limits on when they can be filed.

How long does an NJP stay on your record?

The duration that a Non-Judicial Punishment (NJP), such as an Article 15, stays on a service member’s record can vary depending on the branch of service and the specifics of the individual’s situation. In general, an NJP will remain in the service member’s personnel file, which can potentially impact their military career, such as considerations for promotions and assignments. However, NJPs typically do not follow the service member into civilian life after they leave the military. For those looking to mitigate the impact of an NJP on their military record, it may be possible to petition for its removal or relocation to a less significant part of the file, although success is not guaranteed and depends on the circumstances and the service branch’s policies.

Can an article 15 get you kicked out of the Navy?

An Article 15 itself does not directly result in discharge from the Navy; however, the repercussions of receiving an Article 15 can indirectly influence decisions about a service member’s suitability for continued service. Depending on the severity of the offense and any previous disciplinary actions, commanders might consider administrative separation if they deem the individual’s behavior incompatible with Navy standards. Thus, while an Article 15 is primarily a tool for correcting misconduct within the ranks, repeated infractions or a particularly severe incident could potentially lead to discharge proceedings.

Can you get an honorable discharge with an Article 15 on your record?

Yes, it is possible to receive an honorable discharge from the military even if you have received an Article 15. The overall character of your service is what determines the type of discharge you receive. If your service record is otherwise strong and demonstrates professionalism, adherence to military standards, and positive contributions, an Article 15 may not preclude an honorable discharge. However, multiple infractions or severe misconduct noted in your record could impact this outcome.

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