The infamous Article 15. Every Soldier knows what this is, even if he or she has never received one.
“Article 15” refers to Article 15 of the UCMJ, which covers procedures for nonjudicial punishment of Servicemembers who violate the UCMJ. There are three levels of nonjudicial punishment available to commanders: Summarized, Company Grade, and Field Grade. This is a brief run-down of the three types of Article 15s and the possible punishments.
Summarized Article 15
This is used to punish minor offenses and when the chain of command simply wants to send a message to the Soldier that he or she needs to correct his or her behavior. Summarized Article 15s tend to be under-utilized.
Maximum punishments allowable: extra duty for 14 days, restriction to certain limits for 14 days, and an oral reprimand or admonition. If an NCO receives a Summarized Article 15, it will not be filed in his or her official records.
Company Grade Article 15
Used for more serious offenses that warrant harsher punishment.
Maximum punishments allowable: demotion of one rank if the Soldier is a Private through Corporal (NCOs cannot be demoted with a Company Grade Article 15), forfeiture of up to seven days pay, extra duty for 14 days, restriction for 14 days, and an oral or written reprimand. If an NCO receives a Company Grade Article 15, it will be filed in his or her official records.
Field Grade Article 15
Used to punish the most serious offenses or habitual offenders.
Maximum punishments allowable: Privates through Corporals may be reduced to the lowest rank, Sergeants and Staff Sergeants may be reduced one rank; forfeiture of up to one-half of one month’s pay for two months, extra duty for 45 days, restriction for 45 days (up to 60 days if there is no extra duty), and an oral or written reprimand. If an NCO receives a Field Grade Article 15, it will be filed in his or her official records.
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For Company and Field Grade Article 15s, commanders may also impose what is known as “Correctional Custody” in lieu of extra duty and restriction. Correctional Custody may only be imposed on Soldiers in the ranks of Private through Private First Class; when imposed under a Company Grade, the maximum is seven days whereas the maximum for a Field Grade is 30. This is only an option at installations where the facilities for Correctional Custody exist — Joint Base Lewis-McChord is one such installation.
Any punishment imposed can be suspended for up to 180 days (six months); punishments imposed under Summarized Article may be suspended for up to 90 days. This is a probationary period. If a Soldier commits further acts of misconduct after a punishment has been suspended, then that punishment will take effect and he or she can also receive another Article 15 for the new offense.
Think of a suspension as like probation: if you commit a crime and the court sentences you to six months in jail, but grants probation instead, you will serve that six months in jail if you violate your probation. You can also be tried on whatever crime you committed when you violated probation. Suspensions work the same way, except a commander who “vacates” your suspension does not have to have you appear before him or her before vacating that suspension.
If an NCO receives an Article 15 (not Summarized), then it must be filed in his or her official records (OMPF). There are two ways the Article 15 can be filed: in the performance section where it can be viewed by promotion board, or in the restricted section where it cannot be viewed. The commander imposing the punishment determines how the Article 15 will be filed.
Soldiers who are receiving a Company or a Field Grade Article 15 have the right to speak with an attorney before punishment is imposed. Those receiving a Summarized Article 15 do not have that right.
Soldiers may appeal any punishment they believe is unfair, but they are entitled to only one appeal. The next higher commander will normally make a decision on the appeal. When appealing, Soldiers may choose to submit additional evidence to support the appeal. A commander acting on an appeal can only do two things: let the punishment stand as is, or reduce the punishment in some manner; he or she can never increase the punishment.
Soldiers also have the right to turn down any Article 15 and demand trial by court-martial (unless aboard a vessel). Normally when this happens, the charges are referred to a Summary Court-Martial. You should never turn down an Article 15 without first speaking to an attorney from the Trial Defense Service.