A Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel Under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice

Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) enables a commanding officer to sentence a service member who has committed a minor infraction to thirty days of correctional custody. The article 15 proceeding offers few procedural safeguards; among the protections lacking is the right to counsel. This Note will consider whether the failure of the military to provide counsel at an article 15 proceeding is consistent with the sixth amendment, which provides that “[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right … to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.” The Note first will discuss the extent to which military necessity qualifies the application of the Bill of Rights and the sixth amendment to armed forces personnel. Then, assuming that military necessity does not bar the application of the sixth amendment to article 15 cases, the substantive determinants of the right to counsel–for example, the presence or absence of a “criminal prosecution” or “imprisonment”– will be discussed. Finally, the Note will examine whether the right to counsel demands that the accused receive the aid of a trained attorney.