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Ask the Lawyer: Promptness Is Key In Article 15 Appeals

Jun. 23, 2011 - 03:58PM   |   Last Updated: Jun. 23, 2011 - 03:58PM  |  
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Lawyer Mathew B. Tully answers your questions.

Q. How do I appeal an Article 15?

A. Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice applies to minor offenses requiring disciplinary actions beyond the scope of administrative corrective measures but short of the point where court-martial charges are necessary.

This article grants commanders a substantial amount of leeway in terms of issuing forms of nonjudicial punishment.

As the Manual for Courts-Martial notes, Article 15 provides commanders with an "essential and prompt means of maintaining good order and discipline." This emphasis on promptness, however, often results in a commanding officer issuing NJP when his feelings about a minor offense are fresh and can obscure the facts.

Justice is patient. That's why the UCMJ gives service members the opportunity to appeal an Article 15 to determine whether the punishment properly reflects the facts of the offense.

Article 15's emphasis on promptness continues through the appeal process. Generally, service members have five days after punishment is imposed to file an appeal with the next superior officer above the officer who imposes the punishment.

The superior authority can extend this deadline in certain situations. Service members need to know that an appeal will not always save them from having to undergo an Article 15-imposed punishment while their cases are pending. The superior authority who receives the appeal does not have to suspend the punishment through the appeals process.

In cases involving restraint or extra duty, however, the superior authority must suspend punishment if he fails to act on the appeal within five days of its submission, and the punishment cannot start up again until the superior authority acts on the appeal.

An Article 15 appeal must be made in writing and should include a statement explaining why the punishment is inappropriate. For the appeals process, a service member can retain a civilian attorney, who can prepare this appeal statement.

Upon receiving this appeal, the commander can either partially or fully approve it or deny it. A superior officer must refer cases involving several punishments identified by the UCMJ to a Department of Homeland Security lawyer or judge advocate for advice before acting on the appeal. In other cases, referral is optional. The superior authority may refer the appeal to a lawyer for any other punishment.

Service members wanting to appeal an Article 15 punishment should contact a military law attorney.

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