Chapter 10 Requests in the ArmyFebruary 10, 2020
Soldiers who are undergoing a Court-Martial may hear about something called a “Chapter 10.” A Chapter 10 is a request from a Soldier to be administratively discharged instead of having to face a Court-Martial. If a chapter 10 request is approved, all charges are dismissed and the Soldier is discharged administratively.
A Soldier is eligible to submit a request for a chapter 10 discharge if charges have been preferred against them and at least one of the charges authorizes a punitive discharge under the UCMJ. A request is nothing more than a memorandum, usually prepared by a military attorney, that requests a discharge in lieu of trial by Court-Martial. The request must include an acknowledgement of guilt for an offense which authorizes a punitive discharge. This acknowledgement of guilt is generally very vague and cannot be used against a Soldier later at the Court-Martial if the request is denied.
This written request is processed through the chain of command to the General Court-Martial Convening Authority (GCMCA), who can approve or deny the request (the Special Court-Martial Convening Authority is the approval/denial authority in very limited cases). If the request is approved, the charges against the Soldier are dropped and he/she is discharged, usually within 10 days. Soldiers overwhelming receive an Other than Honorable Discharge in this situation; however, General and Honorable discharges can be awarded.
It is important to note that once a Chapter 10 request is submitted, it can only be withdrawn with the consent of the GCMCA (or after acquittal/conviction without a punitive discharge adjudged). This is one of the many reasons a Soldier should consult with an experienced military attorney before submitting one.
A Chapter 10 request can be beneficial for Soldiers in many situations; however, it is a gamble. Based on my experience, I have seen Soldiers request a Chapter 10 discharge when they are guilty of some of the more minor offenses charged, but not the more serious ones. For example, a Soldier charged with AWOL for 6 months and sexual assault may admit that they were AWOL (which is generally easy for the Government to prove) but vehemently deny that they are guilty of sexual assault. In this situation, the Soldier would likely receive a punitive discharge at trial anyway (for the AWOL conviction), and also be facing jail time and possible sex offender registration (if convicted of the sexual assault charges). Instead of taking these risks, a Soldier may decide to request a Chapter 10 discharge in hopes of avoiding a federal conviction, punitive discharge, jail time, and possible sex offender registration. Of course, it is a gamble, because a Soldier in this situation may also go to trial and be completely acquitted or not separated.
You may be wondering why the Government would ever accept a Chapter 10 request. Primarily, it is when the Government is worried that they may not achieve a conviction at trial and want the Soldier out of the military. For example, often times a complaining witness accusing a Soldier of sexual assault will decide they don’t want to testify. Without his/her testimony, the Government may be worried that they can’t prove their case. Therefore, in this situation, both the Soldier and the Government may not want to gamble with a jury, and a Chapter 10 works for both parties. Another reason the Government may approve a Chapter 10 request is when they are simply overworked. A case may require a lot of work for them to achieve a conviction. The JAGs may not want to do this work and therefore might be more likely recommend approval of a Chapter 10 request.
Before submitting a Chapter 10 request, a Soldier has a lot to consider. It is a complicated process and the assistance of a military attorney who understands it is recommended.
This article was written by Attorney Matthew Barry