Is an Article 15 Visible on Background Checks?

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Ever wondered if a military disciplinary action like an Article 15 could follow you into civilian life? It’s a common concern, especially when you’re stepping into the job market or applying for loans. The shadow of your military past can loom large, but it’s crucial to know just how far that shadow extends.

Navigating the complexities of background checks isn’t easy, and when it comes to Article 15s, there’s a lot to unpack. You’ve served your country, and now it’s time to build your future. Understanding if, and how, an Article 15 might impact that future is key to moving forward with confidence. Let’s dive into the details and clear up the confusion.

What is an Article 15?

An Article 15 is a non-judicial punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). It’s a disciplinary procedure that your commanding officer can use if you’re accused of minor misconduct while serving in the military. Unlike a court-martial, an Article 15 doesn’t constitute a criminal conviction, but it can still have significant effects on your military career.

When you’re facing an Article 15, you’re offered a choice: accept the proceeding or opt for a court-martial. It’s worth noting that accepting an Article 15 isn’t an admission of guilt, but rather an acknowledgment of the commanding officer’s authority to adjudicate the alleged offense.

The consequences for receiving an Article 15 can include:

  • Reduction in rank
  • Forfeiture of pay
  • Extra duties or restrictions
  • Reprimand or admonishment

You may wonder how it can affect your life after military service. Since it’s regarded as an administrative action, Article 15s typically remain within military records. However, the impact on civilian life largely depends on various factors, such as the nature of the offense and the policies of potential employers or lenders.

Information recorded as a result of an Article 15 is stored in the military personnel record, which is different from a criminal record. However, the distinction may not always be clear to those outside of the armed forces, which can lead to confusion during civilian background checks. It’s crucial to understand that background checks vary widely, with some being more thorough than others. This means the visibility of an Article 15 in such checks can be inconsistent, leaving room for uncertainty.

Navigating this terrain requires a careful approach. You’ll want to be prepared for the possibility of explaining an Article 15 to prospective employers, especially if they conduct extensive background screenings. Transparency, coupled with an explanation of the circumstances and any subsequent rehabilitation or good conduct, can mitigate potential concerns.

How Does Background Screening Work?

When you’re applying for a new job or a lease, employers and landlords might run a background check to get a clearer picture of your history. Background screening is a process businesses use to verify that candidates and potential tenants are truthful in their applications and are a good fit for the position or property.

Firstly, they obtain your consent – this is a legal requirement under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). You typically fill out a form providing personal information such as your full name, Social Security Number, and date of birth. The screening may also require your fingerprints, especially for government-related positions.

The next step involves the background check company accessing various databases. They look into areas like:

  • Criminal records (both federal and state)
  • Credit history
  • Past employment
  • Education history
  • Driving records

Criminal background checks are especially nuanced. Not all records are universally reported. Your military records, including any Article 15 you may have received, are stored in a separate system known as the National Criminal Information Center (NCIC). Access to the NCIC is limited, and not all employers have the rights to view these records.

It’s crucial to keep in mind that background screenings can vary greatly in depth. A check can be as simple as confirming your previous employment and education or as complex as a detailed investigation into your criminal history, financial stability, and even social media activity.

Some sectors, like finance and healthcare, or roles that require security clearance, might require more in-depth checks. These thorough screenings are likely to dig deeper into your past, potentially uncovering military records such as an Article 15. However, in most civilian situations, the information related to minor non-judicial military punishments might not surface.

Remember, the results of your background check could affect your employment or leasing opportunities. Therefore, it’s always best to be upfront about your history if you think something might come up. Transparency can go a long way in building trust with potential employers or landlords.

Do Article 15s Show Up on a Background Check?

When diving into the intricacies of background checks, there’s a nagging question you might have: Do Article 15s actually appear on civilian background checks? The short answer is, it depends. Background checks are not a one-size-fits-all; they vary greatly in terms of depth and thoroughness.

For basic employment background screenings, it’s unlikely that an Article 15 will surface. These checks typically cover criminal records, credit histories, and past employment verification. Since an Article 15 is a non-judicial punishment and not a civil conviction, it usually remains within military channels.

But let’s get specific. If you’re looking at positions within the government or roles that require a security clearance, the scrutiny is higher. Security clearance checks will delve into your military service records, where an Article 15 might be noted. It’s important to note that certain positions, especially those tied to national security, mandate a thorough look into any disciplinary actions during military service.

So, what can you do? Your best bet is to be upfront. If you suspect that your military record may be scrutinized, be prepared to discuss the circumstances surrounding your Article 15. Having a clear and honest narrative can often mitigate concerns and showcase your integrity.

Remember, the impact of an Article 15 extends to how you handle its implications. Your approach to disclosing such information is as crucial as the information itself.

  • Basic Background Checks: May not include Article 15s.
  • Security Clearance Checks: Likely to uncover Article 15s.

Keep in mind that the federal government and military-related employers are more adept and likely to access military records, including any non-judicial punishments. However, this doesn’t mean that every employer has the means or the legal right to dig into these specific details of your military service. For positions unrelated to national security or sensitive information, your Article 15 remains a piece of your past that’s tucked away, and more often than not, it won’t impact your civilian career trajectory.

Are Article 15s Considered Criminal Records?

When delving into the question of whether Article 15s appear on a background check, you might wonder if they’re categorized as criminal records. Understanding the nature of Article 15s is crucial because this determines how they are perceived outside of the military judiciary system.

Article 15s are unique to the military justice system and serve as a form of non-judicial punishment. They’re applied for minor breaches of discipline, and they allow commanding officers to address infractions without a formal court-martial. Since they’re administrative actions, Article 15s are not criminal convictions and thus, they do not typically appear in civilian criminal background checks.

However, the distinction between administrative actions and criminal convictions is nuanced. If an Article 15 incident escalates or is accompanied by criminal charges, it could morph into a matter of criminal record. It’s also worth noting that military infractions might be equated to misdemeanors or felonies under civilian law, which alters how these records are regarded in a civilian context.

For the most part, though:

  • Article 15s stay within military records.
  • They don’t appear on standard criminal background checks.
  • Employers outside military or federal domains are unlikely to access them.

But, if you’re applying for a job where your military history is particularly relevant or where security clearances are required, these distinctions become blurred. In such scenarios, Article 15s might surface during intensive background probes. You should also be aware that certain industries, such as defense contracting or federal employment, have tighter regulations that might prompt more rigorous checks.

In essence, while Article 15s aren’t inherently criminal records, their impact on your post-military career may vary. Being prepared to discuss and explain an Article 15—with its circumstances and your subsequent conduct—can be pivotal should it come to light during a background check. Remember, transparency can often mitigate potential concerns from a prospective employer’s perspective.

Potential Impacts of an Article 15 on Your Future

Understanding the potential impacts of an Article 15 on your future career and life prospects is crucial. Though an Article 15 may not surface on standard background checks, its presence in your military record can have far-reaching effects, particularly if you’re seeking employment in sensitive fields.

In industries that require security clearances, such as defense contracting, government agencies, or aerospace, you’ll find the evaluation criteria to be more stringent. Your military record will be scrutinized, and any non-judicial punishments like an Article 15 could raise red flags. Employers in these sectors often equate an Article 15 with a history of indiscipline or unreliability.

Even outside of these industries, certain jobs that demand a high level of trust and integrity, such as law enforcement or positions within financial institutions, might compel a deeper dive into your history. Here, an Article 15 might prompt a discussion, and you’ll need to have a clear and honest explanation.

However, it’s not all bleak. Many employers value the skills and discipline of military veterans, and a single Article 15 incident doesn’t necessarily disqualify you from career opportunities. It’s essential to:

  • Demonstrate that you’ve learned from past mistakes
  • Highlight the positive attributes you honed during your military service
  • Address any concerns proactively in an interview setting

Remember, while an Article 15 is a stumbling block, it doesn’t define your character or your future contributions to a civilian job. Showcasing personal development and professional growth post-incident can offset potential concerns and boost your employability.

If you’re actively working towards positions that might involve detailed background checks, consider consulting a legal advisor familiar with military records to assess and explain how an Article 15 might impact your specific situation. Being prepared and informed is the best strategy to mitigate potential repercussions on your civil career trajectory.


Understanding the nuances of how an Article 15 may affect your civilian career is key. You’ve learned that while it might not show up on basic checks, certain industries will take a closer look. It’s essential to not let past mistakes define you. Instead, focus on showing how you’ve grown from the experience. If you’re ever in doubt, seeking legal advice can provide personalized guidance. Remember, with the right approach and a proactive attitude, you can navigate any potential challenges and keep your career on track.


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