Understanding Article 15: Three Types Explained in UCMJ

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Ever wondered about the disciplinary measures that keep our military in check? Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is a pivotal tool for maintaining order, and it comes in three distinct flavors. Navigating the military’s legal system can be daunting, but understanding the nuances of Article 15 is crucial for service members and their families.

You might be familiar with the term “non-judicial punishment,” but do you know the differences between the three types of Article 15s? Each serves a unique purpose, ranging from a slap on the wrist to a career-altering event. Stick around as we unpack the specifics of Summarized, Company, and Field Grade Article 15s, and why they matter to those who serve.

Summarized Article 15

Understanding Article 15 of the UCMJ is crucial if you’re in the military. It’s a non-judicial punishment mechanism designed to address and correct minor breaches of discipline. The power under Article 15 is vested in your commanding officer, allowing swift and fair resolution without the formalities of a court-martial.

The types of Article 15 are tailored to match the severity of the offense and the level of authority within the chain of command. Your familiarity with each type ensures you’re prepared in case you or someone you know is subject to these proceedings.

  • Summarized Article 15 is the least severe form, dealing with minor infractions. Typically, it doesn’t involve a formal hearing, and the evidence is presented in a more informal manner. If you’re facing a Summarized Article 15, the maximum penalties are relatively light, including extra duties or restrictions for up to 14 days.
  • Company Grade Article 15 involves mid-level offenses. These may require a more formal process, and your company commander is responsible for the proceedings. Potential punishments can include a greater range of restrictions, extra duties, and possibly rank reduction for enlisted personnel.
  • Field Grade Article 15 is the most serious level before court-martial and is reserved for offenses that warrant more significant consequences. A field-grade officer, like a major or above, would oversee your case. The penalties are more severe, potentially including substantial loss of pay, extended restrictions, and higher reduction in rank.

Keep in mind that regardless of the type, you have the right to consult legal counsel and, in most cases, the option to refuse the Article 15 process in favor of a court-martial. This decision should not be taken lightly, as the consequences of a court-martial could be more severe.

Remember, the goal of Article 15 is to maintain order and discipline within the military while giving you the opportunity to correct your course without the stigma of a military conviction. Understanding the nuances and potential impact on your military career helps you make informed decisions should you ever face this non-judicial process.

Company Grade Article 15

When you’re facing disciplinary action under Article 15, the company grade category is one of the options your commanding officer may resort to. This level is applicable to those serving in the lower echelons of the military structure and includes officers at the grade of O-3 and below, as well as enlisted personnel.

Under a company grade Article 15, the consequences you may encounter are less severe than those for higher levels of non-judicial punishment but still impact your military record. Typical penalties may involve:

  • Extra duties for up to 14 days
  • Restriction to a specified area for up to 14 days
  • Oral or written reprimands
  • Forfeiture of up to half a month’s pay for two months
  • Reduction in rank for enlisted members E-4 and below

Your right to refuse an Article 15 and demand a court-martial is especially crucial at the company grade level. It’s a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly as the ramifications of a court-martial can be significantly more serious.

Remember, when presented with a company grade Article 15, you have 24 hours to consult with legal counsel. This period allows you to understand the evidence against you, consider the possible penalties, and weigh the benefits and risks of accepting the Article 15 process versus insisting on a court-martial.

Table 1 below delineates the maximum penalties under a company grade Article 15:

Maximum Penalties Duration
Extra duties 14 days
Restriction 14 days
Forfeiture of pay 1 month
Reduction in rank (Enlisted E-4 and below)

Opting for a company grade Article 15 can be a strategic choice if you believe the outcome will be less severe than facing a court-martial. However, make sure you understand the full scope of your situation and seek guidance from legal counsel to navigate this decision effectively.

Field Grade Article 15

When you’re stationed at a higher level within the military hierarchy, you might encounter a Field Grade Article 15. This type of nonjudicial punishment is more severe than the Company Grade option you’ve already read about, associated with officers with the rank of major (O-4) or higher, up to and including colonels (O-6). It’s essential to understand the increased repercussions that come with a Field Grade Article 15 as they impact service members from junior enlisted to senior noncommissioned officers (NCOs).

Under this category, punishments can be harsher, with the stakes considerably higher. As someone in the service, you should be aware that the potential consequences could include a greater period of restriction, longer terms of extra duties, and steeper forfeitures of pay. Additionally, a reduction in grade is possible for enlisted members up to E-6, which can have a long-term impact on one’s military career.

The following table presents the maximum penalties under a Field Grade Article 15:

Maximum Penalty Enlisted Members E-1 to E-6 Enlisted Members E-7 and Above
Forfeiture of Pay Up to 1/2 of one month’s pay for two months Up to 1/2 of one month’s pay for two months
Reduction in Rank Yes, up to E-1 No
Extra Duties Up to 45 days Up to 45 days
Restriction Up to 60 days Up to 60 days
Correctional Custody (E-3 and below) Up to 30 days Not Applicable

It’s crucial to consult with your legal counsel before accepting any form of Article 15, especially a Field Grade, as the implications are more significant. If faced with this situation, knowing your rights and the possible results of accepting or turning down a Field Grade Article 15 is paramount. Remember, you always have the option to refuse an Article 15 and request a court-martial, though this may also carry its own set of risks and potential outcomes.


Navigating the complexities of Article 15s in the military justice system isn’t straightforward, but understanding the distinctions is crucial. You now know that a Field Grade Article 15 carries significant repercussions that can impact your military career and personal life. Always weigh your options carefully and seek legal advice when faced with such a situation. Remember, you have the right to refuse an Article 15 and opt for a court-martial, a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Armed with this knowledge, you’re better prepared to make informed choices should the need arise.


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