Handling an Article 15: Making the Right Decision

how to handle article 15

If you recently received an Article 15 while in the military, you have an important decision in front of you. You can decide whether to accept or turn down the Article 15. This decision affects your right to demand trial by court-martial. It can affect your military career, potential promotions, and even your future outside of the military.

At the Parlatore Law Group, our military and veteran attorneys are dedicated to helping you through this difficult time. Our law firm was founded by a military veteran and employs several veterans, so we know what you are going through. We can help you handle an Article 15 the right way that best protects your legal rights. 

What Is an Article 15 in the Military?

An Article 15 is a type of non-judicial punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). It is an administrative discipline commanders use to address alleged violations of the UCMJ. Commanders have the option to offer an Article 15 for minor violations rather than proceed directly to a court-martial.

An Article 15 has two primary steps. The commander first “offers” the Article 15. This is often referred to as a “first reading” and outlines the alleged violations. It is documented on a specific form and presented to the service member. Service members who receive an Article 15 are not required to immediately respond, and should first consult an attorney before deciding whether to accept or reject the offer.

After the offer is made, the service member has a specific number of days to prepare their response to that offer. There are multiple response options you can consider, all of which should be made with the advice of an experienced military discipline and appeals attorney.

Accepting an Article 15 Offer

Your first option is to accept the offer of an Article 15. Doing so means you allow the commander to make the final decision about whether you committed the alleged violation of the UCMJ. If you accept, you and your attorney can advocate for the commander to find you not guilty of the alleged offense. Depending on the circumstances, you could instead accept responsibility for the violation but offer mitigating reasons for why it happened in an attempt to reduce the penalties you face.

If you and your attorney decide accepting the Article 15 is the best path, your response must be effective and thorough. It will likely include your statement and mitigating evidence to help in your case.

Rejecting an Article 15 Offer

You can instead choose to turn down the Article 15 offer. You may do this if you are innocent of the charges or you cannot trust your commander to be fair in their assessment of you. By turning down an Article 15, you demand a trial by court-martial instead. This is a major decision and should always be made with the advice of legal counsel.

There are both benefits and risks of turning down an Article 15. The burden of proof at a court-martial is higher, requiring proof beyond a reasonable doubt. This may make it more likely to avoid a guilty finding. It also puts the case in front of a neutral judge or jury, rather than a commander who may have biases toward you. A guilty finding, however, could carry serious penalties that affect your military career.

If you reject an Article 15 offer, this does not necessarily mean your case will go to court-martial. The prosecution may realize they have too little evidence or decide it is not worth the effort. They may decide to use an administrative process instead, such as a reprimand. We can help you decide whether to accept or reject an offer.

Get Legal Advice About Your Article 15

An Article 15 offer is an important decision that could affect your entire life. Punishments could range from low-level penalties to more severe sanctions, so it is critical that you consult an experienced military defense attorney about your case.

The Parlatore Law Group knows what you are facing and how to help. As veterans ourselves, we understand the importance of these proceedings and how to operate under the UCMJ. Let us put that experience to work for you. Contact us today or schedule a consultation.