COMMANDER’S HANDBOOK FOR ARTICLE 15
1. Nonjudicial punishment (NJP) is a disciplinary measure taken under Article 15 of the UCMJ which provides commanders an essential and prompt means of maintaining good order and discipline.
2. An Article 15 action is nonjudicial in nature and does not amount to a federal conviction. However, it is offered when a Commander has information that a member has committed a criminal offense under the UCMJ.
3. Acceptance of the NJP procedure under Article 15 does not amount to an admission of guilt. (AFI 51-202, para 3.12.) It is a waiver by the member of the right to trial by Court-Martial and the member’s acquiescence to the authority and experience of the commander as a finder of fact and potential imposer of punishment.
4. There is not a specified standard of proof for an Article 15. However, the legal office determines whether there is sufficient evidence to prosecute the case, should the member turn the Article 15 down and demand trial by Court-Martial.
Processing Time: Case Ready Date to Offer:
1. An Article 15 action must be offered to the member as soon as possible after the commander learns of the misconduct that warrants such action.
2. It is the Air Force’s policy (AFI 51-202, para 3.3) that Article 15 actions must be initiated within ten calendar days of the date on which the commander has sufficient evidence to determine that an offense which warrants nonjudicial punishment has been committed.
3. The AFI set this metric to ensure timely administration of justice. However, failure to meet the processing goal shall not preclude a Commander from initiating an Article 15.
Processing Time: Offer to Completion:
1. AFI 51-202 states that 80% of Article 15s should be completed within 20 calendar days (including action on an appeal). The commander is ultimately responsible for the timely processing of an Article 15 action from the time it is offered until the time it is completed and returned to the legal office. Remember--the commander must sign the AF Form 3070, but the commander is not required to personally serve it on the member. If the commander is unavailable, the service can be performed by someone designated by the commander.
2. The member has three duty days (72 hours), not counting the date offered, to respond to an Article 15 notification. The term "duty days" refers to the member’s normal duty days. Thus, if the member’s normal duty days include Saturday and Sunday, he would have to respond on Monday if the action was initiated on the previous Friday. (AFI 51-202, para 3.12.) The time and date when the member is required to reply must be indicated on the AF Form 3070. The member should be encouraged to consult defense counsel. Often, the commander or first sergeant will make the appointment with the ADC for the member.
3. The commander should be aware that if the member does not respond in the time specified, the commander should proceed with punishment unless he/ she believes the reason for failure to timely respond was beyond the member’s control. (AFI 51-202, para 3.12.3.) Coordinate with the legal office before proceeding with punishment.
4. The commander may, upon receipt of the member’s written request, grant a delay in responding. (AFI 51-202, para 3.12.) Ensure the delay date and reason are specific and are included in the package when it is returned to the military justice section of the legal office.
5. When Article 15 action is accepted and the commander determines that the member committed the offense(s), the commander should promptly impose punishment and require the member’s acknowledgment. If the action is not appealed (Block 6), Blocks 9-10 of AF Form 3070, Unfavorable Information File (UIF) intent and acknowledgment, should be completed and signed. The entire package should then be hand-carried to the legal office within 24 hours of punishment, or on Monday if punishment is imposed on Friday afternoon. DO NOT SEND THROUGH THE BASE INFORMATION TRANSFER SYSTEM (BITS.)
Step by Step Procedures:
1. Present the evidence to the military justice personnel at the legal office and ask for Article 15 specifications and related documents. If no written evidence is available, the commander will reduce to writing the findings of his investigation. Ensure you provide the paralegal with the correct name, rank, SSN, and AMJAMS rip of the member.
2. The legal office will prepare an AF Form 3070, Record of Nonjudicial Punishment Proceedings.
3. To offer the Article 15 to the member, see the Script at Attachment 1. Basically, the Commander reads the person the specification detailed on page 3: i.e. "You did, on X Sep 20XX, ...". The commander will sign block 1 and will note the time and date the member must return (3 duty days), and the time and date the member was served. If the commander’s representative actually serves the AF Form 3070, then he/she will sign in the appropriate block ("Signature of person serving member if not the commander"). Ensure the commander previously signed next to the signature block, below line #4. The member signs nothing on the AF Form 3070 when he/she is initially served.
4. The commander or representative will review the AF Form 3070 with the member and emphasize the need to respond within three duty days (72 hours) and present the option of seeking advice from the ADC. Ensure the member receives a copy of the AF Form 3070 and a copy of the evidence supporting the Article 15 action to take with him or her to the ADC.
5. When the member returns to accept or refuse the action, the member must initial the appropriate selections on AF Form 3070, block 3.
6. If the member elects to accept Article 15 punishment, the commander will consult a judge advocate regarding the proper level of punishment before proceeding to impose punishment. The legal office will provide the appropriate language on the AF Form 3070 and immediately email it back to the unit. If the unit prefers to do the language, just let us know.
7. At the time punishment is imposed, the commander will direct the member to acknowledge receipt of the punishment and inform the member that he or she has 5 calendar days (NOT DUTY DAYS) to indicate a desire to appeal. Please ensure you provide the member 5 calendar days (do not count the day the commander notifies the member of the punishment, but count the day the member should return, i.e., the commander notifies the individual on 5 Feb, the member must return by 10 Feb not 9 Feb). Failure to return by that date will waive the member’s right to appeal. The commander may, upon written application of the member or counsel, grant an extension.
a. Appeals are made to the “next superior authority” who is generally the immediate Commander superior to the officer who imposed the punishment
b. Appeals must be in writing. No right or entitlement to a personal appearance before the Appellate Authority is provided.
c. The Imposing Commander records his or her decision on the Appeal in block 7. If less than full relief is granted, forward the entire package to the Appellate Authority through the SJA.
d. When you are notified that the appellate authority’s endorsement is ready, retrieve the package for the commander to serve the decision on the member. Obtain the member’s acknowledgement in Block 10 of the AF Form 3070, and deliver the completed package to the military justice section of the legal office.
8. Punishment is effective immediately and is not suspended pending appeal. If action is not taken on the appeal within five (5) days after the appeal is submitted, and if the service member so requests, any punishment involving restraint or extra duty will be suspended until action on the appeal is taken. (MCM, part V, para 7d.)
An Article 15 action must be entered in the member’s UIF if the punishment cannot be completed within 30 days. This includes punishments that spread forfeitures over two months and all suspended punishments. In all other cases, the commander has discretion in making the Article 15 action a UIF entry. The commander notes the decision in Block 9, AF Form 3070; has the member acknowledge the decision in Block 10; and then forwards the package to the legal office for review.
Selection Folder Entry of Article 15 Actions for Officers/Senior NCOs:
1. If the member being punished is an officer or a senior NCO (E-7 through E-9), the commander must decide whether or not to place a copy of the action in the member’s Selection Record. Senior NCO Article 15 actions may be placed in the Senior NCO Selection Record. Actions against officers may be placed in the HQ USAF Selection Record and the Officer Command Selection Record. (AFI 36-2608, Military Personnel Records Systems).
2. Decision Not to File: If the commander decides not to file the record in the Selection Folder, the commander signs a letter to that effect and forwards it to the legal office with the entire Article 15 action.
3. Decision to File: If the commander makes a preliminary decision that the punishment should be filed in the Selection Record, the commander must notify the member of that intent. The member must acknowledge receipt and indicate to the commander whether he or she wishes to submit a statement. After reviewing the member’s statement, if any, the commander determines if filing is still appropriate.
Withdrawing an Article 15 Action:
1. If, at any point after initiating an Article 15 action but before acceptance by the member, the commander decides that an Article 15 action is unwarranted or inappropriate, it may be withdrawn. Consult the military justice section of the legal office prior to withdrawl.
2. If the commander determines the member is not guilty after the member has accepted the Article 15, the commander must initial Block 4a of the AF Form 3070. The entire package must be forwarded to the legal office as the aborted Article15 must be added to the legal office database for statistical purposes.
1. Suspension: postponement of the application of all or part of the punishment for a specific probationary period. That probationary period may not exceed 6 months.
a. When reduction in grade is later suspended, the member’s original date of rank held before the suspension, is reinstated.
b. Suspension of a punishment automatically includes a condition that the service member does not violate any punitive articles of the UCMJ. Commanders may specify other conditions as well.
c. The member, if undergoing a suspended reduction in grade, is ineligible for promotion, including testing and consideration if already tested. The member, if serving any suspended punishment, is ineligible to reenlist, but may be eligible for an extension of enlistment.
2. Mitigation: a reduction in either the quantity or quality of a punishment with its general nature remaining the same.
a. With the exception of reduction in grade, only the unexecuted part or amount of the punishment can be mitigated
b. A reduction in grade, whether executed or unexecuted, can only be mitigated to forfeitures and must be done within 4 months after the date of execution. If the reduction had been executed, the DOR for the restored grade is the date of the indorsement mitigating the punishment.
c. Extra Duties can be mitigated to restriction. Restriction, the least severe restraint on liberty, cannot be mitigated to a different form of punishment.
3. Remission: the cancellation of any portion of the unexecuted punishment. A reduction is executed on imposition. It can therefore never be remitted (but could be suspended, mitigated, or set aside).
4. Set Aside: occurs when the punishment is removed from the record and any rights, privilieges, or pay are restored. A set aside voids the entire nonjudicial punishment action. Set aside is not a rehabilitation tool. Only use if question of guilt arises later or if in best interest of the Air Force.
Conclusion: Nonjudicial punishment under Article 15 provides Commanders with a valuable tool to correct criminal behavior. As this guide indicates, there are several metrics and rules in this area. The military justice section stands ready to help you with any questions you have. Please feel free to contact your legal office.
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