The focus is on Soldiers. But the same principles apply to Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and Coast Guardsmen.
1. Basics. A Soldier has two choices (assuming not embarked in a vessel): accept or not accept Article 15 as a way to dispose of misconduct charges. If the Soldier accepts Article 15, that is not by itself ‘pleading guilty.’ If the Soldier accepts disposition at Article 15, then there is the choice: plead guilty or not guilty. If the Soldier pleads not guilty then she can present evidence and witnesses on her behalf. Unlike the other Services, the Army commander ultimately must find ‘guilt’ beyond reasonable doubt. Whether the commander finds the Soldier guilty or she pleads guilty the commander then imposes a punishment she thinks appropriate for the circumstances of the misconduct and the Soldier’s attitude and quality of service. But you the Leader are now asked by the Soldier what can they do to appeal or get this removed.
2. Appeal of the punishment action.
a. Basis. An appeal of Article 15 punishment alleges the imposition of punishment was unjust, and/or too severe.
(1) If plead not guilty. In this situation the Soldier’s appeal relates to both the justness of punishment and the severity of the punishment. By “unjust” the rule contemplates that a basis to overturn an Article 15 as unjust is that there was not sufficient evidence of guilty, and/or there was a significant failure to follow the correct procedures.
(2) If the Soldier plead guilty, then the Soldier is limited to appealing the punishment itself.
3. What if the Soldier doesn’t appeal or the appeal is denied. Is there anything you can do for the Soldier at this point.
4. What if a Soldier gets in trouble again.
a. They can get another Article 15.
b. They can be referred to court-martial. At a court-martial, the conduct underlying the first Article 15 can be charged. That is not double jeopardy.
(1) Article 15
(f), UCMJ, states that: The imposition and enforcement of disciplinary punishment under this article for any act or omission is not a bar to trial by court-martial for a serious crime or offense growing out of the same act or omission, and not properly punishable under this article; but the fact that a disciplinary punishment has been enforced may be shown by the accuse upon trial, and when so shown shall be considered in determining the measure of punishment to be adjudged in the event of a finding of guilty.
(2) The case of United States v. Pierce, 27 M.J. 367 (C.M.A. 1989), states that the Soldier must be credited with any punishment already served at the first Article 15. c. They can be administratively discharged with or without a new Article 15 punishment.
Basic references: Article 15, UCMJ [http://goo.gl/iPpB]. Part V., Manual for Courts-Martial [http://goo.gl/lmPT5]. Chap. 3., AR 27-10 (3 November 2011) [http://goo.gl/cxngt].