Article 15s are considered nonjudicial punishment (NJP) under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Article 15s are a mechanism that allow the chain of command to punish a Soldier for offenses under the UCMJ without formally charging him/her at a court-martial. Article 15s are governed by AR 27-10, Chapter 3.
The first step in the NJP process is for the commander to serve you with the charges and provide a copy of the evidence against you. You have a right to examine all statements and other evidence that the commander has examined and intends to rely upon in arriving at a decision as to whether to impose punishment, and the type of punishment to be imposed. Members are normally provided a copy of the documentary evidence unless the matters are privileged, classified, or otherwise restricted by law, regulation, or instruction.
The second step is for you, the member, to decide whether to accept nonjudicial punishment. If you accept nonjudicial punishment, you are not necessarily accepting guilt. Nonjudicial punishment is simply a "forum" for deciding your case -- you are choosing to allow your commander to decide whether or not you are guilty and, if your commander finds you guilty, what type of punishment is required. Thus, if you accept nonjudicial punishment, your commander becomes your jury. You can also reject nonjudicial punishment and demand trial by court-martial. Because requesting a court-martial is a very serious decision, you should consult with an attorney.
In general, if your commander finds you guilty during nonjudicial punishment, he or she can impose a reprimand, forfeitures of pay, reduction in rank, restrictions, and/or extra duty. With these possible punishments, it is important that you submit a persuasive and professional response to an Article 15.
If you receive an Article 15 and accept nonjudicial punishment, you are entitled to submit a written response. Your written response becomes a part of the official record, so it is important that you submit a professional, respectful, and persuasive response.
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