Article 15 in the Military: Is It Considered a Felony?

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When you’re navigating the complexities of military law, understanding the consequences of disciplinary actions is crucial. You might’ve heard of Article 15 and wondered, “Is it a felony?” It’s a common question that can have significant implications for military personnel.

Article 15 refers to non-judicial punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). It’s a tool for commanders to address minor offenses without the need for a court-martial. But does receiving an Article 15 mean you’re now facing a felony? Let’s break down what this disciplinary action really entails and how it impacts your military record.

What is Article 15?

When you’re part of the military community, understanding the nuances of military justice is essential. Article 15 is a provision in the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) that allows commanders to address and discipline minor infractions without convening a court-martial. This administrative process is also known as non-judicial punishment (NJP) and is pivotal in maintaining order within the ranks.

An Article 15 is not a one-size-fits-all answer to misconduct. Commanders have discretion in determining whether an offense warrants an Article 15 and the severity of the punishment. The punishments under Article 15 can vary, from extra duties to reduction in grade, and even to restrictions in privileges. It’s tailored to both the infraction and the service member’s history.

The process of Article 15 is designed to be quick and efficient. This efficiency ensures that minor offenses are dealt with expediently, allowing the service member to correct their behavior without an extensive legal process. However, the accused does have rights, which include the right to know the charges, the right to a hearing, and the right to present a defense.

For service members, the ramifications of an Article 15 can be significant and lasting. This punishment will be noted in one’s service record, which can affect career progression and opportunities. However, it’s critical to understand that an Article 15 is not equivalent to a felony conviction. Its scope is confined to military conduct and it does not appear in civilian criminal records.

  • Rights of the Accused under Article 15:
  • Right to know the charges
  • Right to a hearing
  • Right to present evidence
  • Right to appeal the decision

Knowing the implications of Article 15 and how it functions within the framework of military law gives you the ability to navigate your responsibilities with more confidence and awareness. Your conduct and understanding of these principles are crucial for a successful military career.

How does Article 15 work?

When you’re facing an Article 15, understanding the process helps you prepare for what’s ahead. The procedure kicks off when your commanding officer (CO) considers whether your alleged misconduct should be resolved administratively rather than through a court-martial. Not every offense leads to an Article 15; some may be too severe or too minor.

Upon deciding an Article 15 is appropriate, your CO will notify you of the accusations. You’ll receive a detailed notice of the charges, evidence against you, and your rights under the UCMJ. At this juncture, you’re not left without options. You have the right to accept or refuse the Article 15. Opting in means you’re choosing to have the CO handle the matter. Opting out could send your case to a court-martial, where stakes and potential penalties are higher.

Here’s what happens if you accept the Article 15:

  • You’ll have a hearing before your CO where you can present evidence, call witnesses, and provide statements from others in your defense.
  • The hearing is often informal, and legal representation is typically not provided, but you can bring someone to advise you.
  • After the hearing, your CO will determine guilt or innocence based on the “preponderance of evidence” standard, which is less strict than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in civilian courts.
  • Penalties can include reduction in rank, extra duties, forfeiture of pay, and restrictions on liberty, among others.

Should you be found guilty, you could appeal the decision within a predetermined time frame, citing injustice or disproportional punishment. The appeal goes up the chain of command, usually to the next highest authority.

Remember, these outcomes don’t impact your civilian record; however, they can affect your military career. Knowing the Article 15 process arms you with the knowledge to defend your rights and make informed decisions.

Is Article 15 a felony?

When navigating the complexities of military law, it’s crucial to understand the distinction between administrative actions and criminal offenses. Article 15 is not a felony; it’s an administrative process used to address violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). A felony, on the other hand, is a very serious crime that’s typically recognized within the civilian court system.

Under the UCMJ, felonies fall under the category of a “General Court-Martial”, which is the highest level of military court and is reserved for the most serious offenses. An Article 15, sometimes referred to as non-judicial punishment or NJP, handles less severe infractions and is a tool available to your commanding officer to maintain good order and discipline without the need for a formal court-martial.

While the repercussions of an Article 15 are not to be taken lightly, it’s important to note that any punishments you may face will not equate to a criminal conviction in the civilian world. Instead, penalties are strictly within the confines of your military career. However, should you find yourself with an Article 15 on your record, the effects can be substantial and long-lasting within military life including impacts on promotions, assignments, and overall military standing.

Furthermore, service members are often concerned about the implications of an Article 15 on their post-military life. Rest assured, the repercussions of this type of military administrative action do not typically follow you into the civilian sector. Unlike a felony conviction, an Article 15 will not appear on your civilian criminal record.

Understanding the nature and consequences of an Article 15 is paramount for service members. Recognizing that while it falls short of a felony, it nonetheless carries its own set of serious, career-impacting implications is key to comprehending its gravity within the military justice system.

Consequences of receiving an Article 15

When you’re faced with an Article 15, it’s crucial to understand the potential impact on your military career. Unlike a felony in the civilian system, an Article 15 doesn’t translate to a criminal conviction; however, the ramifications are significant within the military framework.

Potential disciplinary actions under Article 15 include:

  • Reduction in rank
  • Forfeiture of pay
  • Extra duties
  • Restrictions
  • A reprimand or admonition

Reduction in rank, often the most feared consequence, can have long-lasting effects on your career trajectory and earnings. A decrease in grade not only impacts your current income but also your retirement benefits. Forfeiture of pay can strain your financial stability, providing an immediate reminder of the nonjudicial punishment’s implications.

Implementing extra duties could mean additional work hours, taking away personal time, and potentially altering your work-life balance. Restrictions may be placed on your liberties, often confining you to the base or limiting your movement, which can affect morale and personal relationships. Lastly, a reprimand, being a formal statement of disapproval, can tarnish your reputation and might be considered during future evaluations and promotions.

Consequence Direct Impact
Reduction in rank Affects income and retirement benefits
Forfeiture of pay Financial strain
Extra duties Increased work hours
Restrictions Limits personal liberties and movements
Reprimand or admonition Tarnishes reputation and prospects

It’s important to recognize that the severity of the consequences largely depends on the nature of the offense and your commanding officer’s discretion. Each case is unique, and commanders have a degree of flexibility in determining an appropriate punishment.

Documentation of an Article 15 is kept in your military records, which could be reviewed if you seek other security-related positions post service. This might lead to questions about your discipline and conduct, and while not equivalent to a criminal record, it could influence future employment within certain government agencies or private sector jobs requiring a security clearance.

How an Article 15 can impact your military record

When you’re faced with an Article 15, understanding the potential impact on your military record is crucial. Although not a felony, Article 15 repercussions are serious and can significantly alter your trajectory within the armed forces. These implications not only influence your current position but can also affect future advancements and benefits.

First, let’s talk about promotions. An Article 15 can stall your progression, as commanding officers often consider your entire service record when making promotion decisions. With an Article 15 on your record, you may find it tougher to justify your suitability for higher responsibility, and as a result, you might see your peers advancing while you remain at your current rank.

In terms of clearances, holding sensitive positions often requires a clean record. Security clearances can be jeopardized by infractions documented in an Article 15. In some cases, the loss of a clearance due to disciplinary action can mean the end of your military career, especially if your role is highly dependent on maintaining that clearance level.

Let’s also consider reenlistment. The military’s Reenlistment Eligibility (RE) codes reflect your eligibility for future service. An Article 15 can lead to a negative RE code, which can hinder or outright prevent your reenlistment. You’ll want to keep your record clean to ensure that options remain open for you to serve longer if you choose to.

  • Potential Impacts:
  • Promotion Delays
  • Security Clearance Issues
  • Reenlistment Eligibility Obstacles

Further, your military record accompanies you even after your service has ended. Should you seek employment with a federal agency or a civilian job that requires a military background check, your service record, including any Article 15 actions, will be scrutinized. Although typically not visible to civilian employers, certain jobs that demand a high level of trust and responsibility may delve deeper into your past service.

Remember, the degree to which an Article 15 affects your military record can vary. Factors such as the gravity of the offense and your overall service performance are taken into account. It’s essential to handle the situation with the utmost seriousness and, where possible, take steps to mitigate the impact on your military career trajectory.


Understanding the distinction between Article 15 and a felony is crucial for your grasp of military law. Remember, while Article 15 is not a felony and won’t typically tarnish your civilian record, it can have significant implications for your military career. The consequences you face can range from rank reduction to forfeiture of pay and may even influence your prospects after service. It’s essential to take these proceedings seriously and be aware of how they can impact your future, especially in careers related to security or those that value a pristine military record. Your actions and the decisions of your commanding officer will ultimately shape the outcome of an Article 15, so staying informed and prepared is key to navigating this aspect of military life.


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