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The UCMJ considers Article 15s, also known as Captain’s Mast in the Navy, nonjudicial punishment under the UCMJ.  Article 15s, to include field grade article 15, allows the chain of command to punish service members for UCMJ offenses. Commanders use Article 15 to issue punishment without formally charging him/her at a court-martial.  Article 15s are governed by AR 27-10, Chapter 3.

Although Article 15 or Captain’s Mast are not court proceedings, service members are still entitled to counsel as part of the process. In general, the Navy’s Defense Services Office, the Army’s Trial Defense Service, or the Air force Area Defense Counsel can provide some initial guidance. However, these military defense lawyers generally have little time to address their full attention to service members facing Article 15. It is wise to consult a civilian attorney who can guide you through the process. Service members can mitigate the effects on the their career with proper counsel. If the service member has six-or more years of service and is an E5 or above, consulting an attorney becomes even more important. Article 15s can be filed in the service member’s permanent file and could affect promotion or retention on active duty. An experienced attorney can help them mitigate the risks to their career. The different types of article 15 are listed next.

Types of Article 15 to include field grade article 15

There are three types of Article 15s:


Any company grade commander may administer this type of Article 15. When the command reads a summarized Article 15 to a service member, the service member is not entitled to consult with a defense attorney. They may, however, turn down the Article 15 and demand trial by court-martial. The maximum punishment authorized at a summarized Article 15 is any combination of:

  • extra duty for 14 days
  • restriction for 14 days
  • oral reprimand or admonition

Company Grade

Any company grade commander may administer this type of Article 15. The maximum punishment authorized at a company grade Article 15 is any combination of:

  • Extra duty for 14 days
  • Restriction for 14 days
  • Oral reprimand or admonition
  • Fine of seven days base pay
  • Reduction in rank of one grade (E-4 & below only)

Field Grade

A commander in the rank of major or above may administer this type of Article 15. The maximum punishment authorized at a field grade Article 15 is:
  • Correctional custody of not more than 30 days
  • Impose of fine of not more than 15 days pay per month for two months
  • Extra duties, including fatigue or other duties for not more than 45 consecutive days
  • Restrictions to certain specified limits, with or without suspension from duty, for not more than 60 consecutive days
  • Oral or written reprimand

Field Grade Article 15

Field grade Article 15 refers to a non-judicial punishment that commands can impose on military personnel for minor offenses. It’s called “field grade” because it involves a higher-ranking officer. These officers are typically a major or lieutenant colonel,. These officers preside over the proceedings. There are more severe penalties with this type of Article 15 as compared to a company grade Article 15.  The goal is to address misconduct and maintain discipline within the military ranks without resorting to a court-martial.

A field grade Article 15 allows for a range of punishments

  • Admonition or Reprimand: A formal expression of disapproval.
  • Extra Duty: Assigned additional duties or tasks for a specified period.
  • Restriction: Limitation of movement to a certain area for a specified time.
  • Forfeiture of Pay: Temporary loss of a portion of the individual’s pay for a specified period.
  • Rank Reduction: Demotion to a lower enlisted grade. This is more severe and is usually reserved for more serious offenses.

Commands use these punishments to address misconduct, deter future violations, and maintain discipline within the military unit. The severity of the punishment depends on the nature and gravity of the offense. Punishments can be suspended as follows.

What is suspended punishment?

Your commander may suspend any or all punishment for a period not to exceed six months. If the Commander suspends punishment, it does not take affect. You are, in essence, on “probation” for the suspension period. As long as you do not engage in any misconduct, the suspended punishment will not take affect. However, if you engage in misconduct of any kind, the commander can withdraw (vacate) the suspension. The original punishment takes effect. You do not have a right to contest or appeal the vacation of the suspension. Furthermore, the violation action will not preclude further judicial or non-judicial punishment for the same misconduct.

Field Grade Article 15

Field grade Article 15s are typically used for more serious offenses compared to company grade Article 15s. Offenses that may lead to a field grade Article 15 include:

  • Serious insubordination: Disobeying orders or disrespecting a superior officer.
  • Assault: Physical harm or threat of harm to another person.
  • Theft or fraud: Stealing or engaging in dishonest practices.
  • Drug abuse: Possession or use of illegal substances.
  • Destruction of property: Damaging or vandalizing military or personal property.
  • Dereliction of duty: Failing to perform assigned duties.
  • Conduct unbecoming an officer or a gentleman/lady: Behavior that brings discredit to the military or is inconsistent with the standards expected of military personnel.

These offenses are considered more serious and may warrant a higher level of disciplinary action to maintain order and discipline within the military ranks. Regardless, the defendant retains certain rights during the article 15 proceedings.

What are a defendant’s rights during the Article 15 process?

While a field grade Article 15 is an administrative, non-judicial punishment within the military, individuals facing such proceedings still have certain rights to ensure a fair process.

These rights include

  • The command must inform the service member of the specific allegations and charges.
  • Consult with an attorney: The defendant is not allowed to have an attorney present at the article 15 hearing. However, they can consult with an attorney before accepting an article 15 or declining Article 15 punishment in lieu of court martial.
  • The right to have character or fact witnesses that counter the allegations. These witnesses can appear in person. They can also appear in the form of letters that the witnesses can write. This testimony either counters the accusations or present mitigating or extenuating circumstances to the situation.
  • The right to remain silent: The right to avoid self-incrimination. The accused is not obligated to make any statements.
  • The right to appeal: If the accused disagrees with the outcome of the Article 15 proceeding, they have the right to appeal to a higher authority.

These rights are designed to ensure a fair and just process for individuals facing disciplinary action within the military. The right to remain silent is especially important when it comes to determining whether an Article 15 becomes an admission of guilt.

Is accepting an article 15 an admission of guilt?

Accepting an Article 15 is not an admission of guilt. In military proceedings, individuals often have the option to accept an Article 15 punishment to expedite the resolution of the case. This helps avoid a more formal and potentially more severe court-martial. When an individual accepts a Article 15, whether company or field grade article 15, it means they acknowledge that there is enough evidence to support the charges and that they do not wish to contest the matter in a court-martial. It is a choice to forego the right to a trial in exchange for a quicker resolution. However, accepting an Article 15 is not an admission of guilt in a criminal sense. The individual maintains the right to maintain their innocence or provide mitigating factors during the Article 15 proceedings. It’s a pragmatic decision to resolve the matter administratively rather than through a more formal legal process.

Should a service member make a statement during Article 15 proceedings?

Whether a service member should make a statement during an Article 15 hearing depends on the specific circumstances of the case. It also depends on the the advice of their legal counsel. Service members have the right to remain silent. Anything they say can be used against them in the proceedings. However, making a statement may also provide an opportunity to present their side of the story. These statements may offer mitigating factors, or explain any relevant context.

It’s crucial for service members facing an Article 15 to consult with their legal counsel before deciding whether to make a statement. Legal counsel can provide guidance on the potential risks and benefits of speaking during the hearing. They can help craft a strategic and effective statement. An experienced attorney cam ensure that the service member’s rights are protected throughout the process. If a service member admits guilt in a proceeding to gain mercy from the commander, these statements can be used in later proceedings such as an adverse administrative separation board.

Ultimately, the decision to make a statement should be an informed one. Service members and their lawyer take into consideration the specific details of the case and service members’ legal rights and interests. Regardless of the outcome of Article 15 proceedings, the defendant has a right to appeal after the Commander issues an article 15.

The right to appeal a Field Grade Article 15

The right to appeal sounds helpful, but the success of Article 15 appeals can vary depending on the circumstances of the case, the strength of the defense’s arguments, and the evidence presented. Success in an appeal often hinges on demonstrating that there were errors or injustices in the initial Article 15 proceedings. If the appeal filing cites procedural errors, lack of evidence, or violations of the accused’s rights, there may be a higher chance of success. However, if the appeal is simply a disagreement with the outcome or punishment, it may be more challenging to overturn the decision. It’s important for individuals appealing an Article 15 to have a solid legal basis, and the assistance of legal counsel is crucial in presenting a compelling case. Success also depends on the reviewing authority within the military chain of command, and outcomes can vary. In any case, the appeal process provides an additional layer of review to ensure that the disciplinary actions are fair and just.

If you are facing a Field Grade Article 15, call us today. We have successfully assisted others with excellent results. We may be able to help you too.

Contact The Law Office of Peter Kageleiry, Jr. Consultation

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Attorney Peter Kageleiry, Jr., focuses his legal practice exclusively on military court-martial law and related adverse administrative actions.

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