Is Discharge Likely After an Article 15? UCMJ Insight

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Facing an Article 15 in the military can feel like standing on shaky ground. You’re likely wondering how it’ll impact your career and if it could lead to a discharge. It’s a serious concern, and you’re not alone in wanting to understand the potential consequences.

An Article 15, also known as nonjudicial punishment, is a disciplinary action for minor offenses in the military. But don’t let the term “minor” fool you; the repercussions can be significant. Let’s dive into what an Article 15 entails and whether it can indeed be a career-ender.

What is an Article 15?

Article 15 refers to non-judicial punishment within the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). It allows commanders to handle minor infractions without the need for a formal court-martial. When you receive an Article 15, it implies that you’re accused of offenses such as insubordination, dereliction of duty, or various forms of misconduct. Accepting an Article 15 is voluntary, but refusing it can lead to a more formal trial with potentially harsher consequences.

Non-judicial doesn’t mean inconsequential. The process is swift and can severely affect your career trajectory. Punishments can include reduction in rank, extra duties, forfeiture of pay, and restrictions. Importantly, these penalties are not always uniform and can differ based on your commander’s discretion and the circumstances surrounding the incident.

  • Rank Reduction: Demotion in rank can disrupt career progression.
  • Forfeiture of Pay: Losing out on salary can have immediate financial consequences.
  • Extra Duties: Additional tasks as punishment can consume personal time and impact morale.
  • Restrictions: Limited privileges can lead to a decrease in quality of life while serving.

While receiving an Article 15 is far from ideal, it’s also not the end of the line. It serves as a wake-up call for many servicemembers to align with military conduct standards. Responding responsibly to an Article 15 can show character and dedication, potentially mitigating the long-term effects on your military career. But it’s crucial to understand the potential severity of an Article 15 before deciding how to proceed. Repeated offenses or particularly serious incidents could lead to more significant disciplinary action, such as an Administrative Separation Process or even a court-martial, which brings forth the risk of discharge.

Types of Article 15

Understanding the different types of Article 15s is crucial as each category differs in severity and implications. In the UCMJ, there are three kinds of Article 15 proceedings: Summarized, Company grade, and Field grade.

Summarized Article 15 proceedings are the least severe. They are generally used for minor offenses and do not require a formal court hearing. Here’s what you should know:

  • The maximum punishment does not include jail time or a bad conduct discharge.
  • Punishments may involve extra duties, restriction to a certain area, or oral reprimands.

If you’re facing a Company Grade Article 15, you’re dealing with a slightly higher level of command, typically your company commander.

  • It can result in punishments such as:
  • Rank reduction for E-4 and below
  • Up to 14 days of restriction and extra duties
  • Forfeiture of up to 7 days’ pay

On the other hand, a Field Grade Article 15 is more serious and can be imposed by a battalion or higher-level commander:

  • Punishments might be:
  • Rank reduction for E-5 and above
  • Up to 45 days of restriction and extra duties
  • Forfeiture of half a month’s pay for two months

The implications of an Article 15 can stack up, affecting your military record and future within the armed forces. While these punitive actions are administrative in nature, they can escalate if the behavior prompting the Article 15 is repeatedly disregarded or if the initial incident is particularly serious. Should your commander believe you’re not fit for service or that your actions warrant it, a discharge under other than honorable conditions may be possible. It’s important to respond responsibly to an Article 15. Seeking legal counsel through the military’s Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps can help you navigate the process and mitigate potential impacts.

Procedures for an Article 15

When you’re facing an Article 15, understanding the procedures is crucial to prepare for what’s ahead. Initially, you’ll be notified in writing of the commander’s intent to impose an Article 15. This notification will detail the alleged misconduct and the evidence against you. You’ll be given a reasonable amount of time to decide whether to accept the Article 15 proceedings or to demand a court-martial.

Upon accepting an Article 15, you’ll then enter the phase known as “the hearing.” During this phase, you have the right to:

  • Present evidence in your defense.
  • Call witnesses.
  • Have a spokesperson, which can be a military attorney, or you may choose to speak on your own behalf.

The hearing is more informal than a court-martial, yet the commanding officer will take on a role similar to that of a judge. You’re encouraged to seek guidance from legal counsel at the JAG office, who can assist in presenting your case effectively.

Evidence against you will be considered, along with any mitigating circumstances or demonstrations of good character. It’s your responsibility to show why the proposed punishments should not be imposed, or why they should be lessened.

During the deliberation after the hearing, the commander will decide whether you are guilty of the charges and what your punishment will be if necessary. The range of punishment depends on the level of Article 15 proceeding and can include:

  • Reduction in rank
  • Forfeiture of pay
  • Extra duties and/or restriction
  • A reprimand

Bear in mind, if you disagree with the commander’s decision, you have the right to an appeal. Appeals must be made in a timely manner, usually within five calendar days, and are directed to the next level of command. The appeal process provides another chance to present new evidence or emphasize errors in the initial decision.

Know that throughout the Article 15 process, your conduct and response to the proceedings can influence the outcome. Demonstrating a proactive stance in rectifying the situation and taking responsibility where appropriate can play a pivotal role in the determination of your punishment or in the favorable resolution of your appeal.

Potential Consequences of an Article 15

When facing an Article 15, it’s crucial to understand the repercussions that can ripple through your military career. One significant outcome you’re likely concerned about is whether an Article 15 can lead to discharge. The answer isn’t straightforward—discharge isn’t an automatic result, but it may be a possible implication depending on the severity of the offense and the decision of your commander.

Certainly, minor infractions tend to result in lighter punishments, like extra duties or reduction in rank. However, chronic misconduct or serious offenses can raise the stakes substantially. If your actions indicate a pattern of non-compliance or if they’re particularly grave, your commanding officer may see fit to initiate separation proceedings. Ultimately, this could culminate in an administrative discharge.

Here’s a quick rundown of the types of discharges you could face if things escalate after an Article 15:

  • Honorable Discharge: Granted under honorable conditions, usually when performance and behavior have been satisfactory.
  • General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions: This type may occur when you have had some areas of misconduct or have not met all performance standards.
  • Other Than Honorable (OTH) Discharge: This is more severe than a General Discharge and is attributed to significant deviation from expected military conduct.
  • Bad Conduct Discharge (BCD): Issued by a court-martial, indicating serious infractions and misconduct.
  • Dishonorable Discharge: The most severe form, handed down for very serious offenses and via court-martial only.

The impact of a less-than-honorable discharge can be profound, affecting your veteran benefits and post-military employment opportunities. However, not every Article 15 will snowball into such serious territory. Your immediate response, attitude, and conduct following the infraction can heavily influence your commander’s approach to your continued service. Engaging with JAG representation can provide guidance and potentially temper the consequences you’re facing.

It’s also worth noting that the experiences following an Article 15 vary widely among servicemembers. Some indeed find that it marks the beginning of the end of their military journey, while for others, it serves as a chance to course-correct and eventually redeem their standing. Your command’s culture, your relationship with superiors, and previous record will all come into play.

Can an Article 15 Lead to Discharge?

When you’re facing an Article 15, the prospect of discharge from the military is a genuine concern. While not all Article 15s result in discharge, it’s crucial to understand how this nonjudicial punishment could lead to such a consequential outcome.

Firstly, the seriousness of the offense plays a pivotal role in determining whether discharge is on the table. Minor infractions often result in milder forms of punishment. However, repeated offenses or a severe violation could prompt your commanding officer to initiate discharge proceedings.

There are various types of discharges that may be considered in connection with an Article 15, which include:

  • Honorable Discharge
  • General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions
  • Other Than Honorable (OTH) Discharge
  • Bad Conduct Discharge (if court-martialed)
  • Dishonorable Discharge (if court-martialed)

Each carries its own repercussions and affects veteran benefits differently. The type of discharge you might face depends on the nature and circumstances of your conduct.

Your performance and conduct history in the military also weigh heavily in these decisions. A strong prior service record might sway your commanding officer to be more lenient, possibly opting for corrective training or a lesser form of punishment rather than outright discharge.

Legal representation is crucial in these circumstances. Utilizing the support of JAG can help you present a strong case as to why you should remain in service.

Remember, the right to appeal a commander’s decision is a critical aspect of the process. If you feel the decision was unjust or excessively harsh, pursuing an appeal might be your best course of action.

By familiarizing yourself with the ramifications of an Article 15 and actively engaging with the military justice system, you’re in a better position to advocate for yourself and potentially mitigate the impacts on your military career. Keep in mind the importance of timely response and appropriate conduct in addressing the situation at hand.


Facing an Article 15 can be a pivotal moment in your military career, and it’s clear that the consequences can vary widely. Remember, the severity of the offense heavily influences whether discharge is on the table and, if so, what type. It’s crucial to engage with a JAG officer to navigate this challenging situation effectively. You’ve got the right to appeal and every opportunity to make a strong case for yourself. Taking prompt, informed action can make all the difference in safeguarding your future in the service. Stay proactive, stay informed, and take the necessary steps to protect your military career.


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