Chapter 4 Request in the Air ForceFebruary 17, 2020
Airmen who are undergoing a Court-Martial may hear about something called a Chapter 4 Request. This is a request from an Airman to be administratively discharged instead of having to face a Court-Martial. If the request is approved, all charges are dismissed and the Airman is discharged administratively.
An Airman is eligible to submit a Chapter 4 Request if charges have been preferred against him/her and at least one of the charges authorizes a punitive discharge under the UCMJ. Such 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 acknowledge the elements of an offense which authorizes a punitive discharge. This acknowledgement cannot be used against an Airman later at the Court-Martial if the request is denied.
If the preliminary hearing has been forwarded to the General Court-Martial Convening Authority (GCMCA), then he/she is the approval authority of such a request. Otherwise, the Special Court-Martial Convening Authority (SPCMCA) is the approval authority. If the request is approved, the charges against the Airman are dropped and he/she is discharged, usually within 10 days. Airmen 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It is important to note that once a request is submitted, it can only be withdrawn with the consent of the approval authority. This is one of the many reasons an Airman should consult with an experienced military attorney before submitting one.
This type of request can be beneficial for Airmen in many situations; however, it is a gamble. Airmen should consider requesting a Chapter 4 when they are guilty of some of the more minor offenses charged, but not the more serious ones. For example, an Airman 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 Airman 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, an Airman may decide to submit a Chapter 4 Request in hopes of avoiding a federal conviction, punitive discharge, jail time, and possible sex offender registration. Of course, it is a gamble, because an Airman in this situation may also go to trial and be completely acquitted.
You may be wondering why the Government would ever accept a Chapter 4 Request. Primarily, it is when the Government is worried that they may not achieve a conviction at trial and want the Airman out of the military. For example, often times a complaining witness accusing an Airman 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 Airman and the Government may not want to gamble with a jury, and a Chapter 4 works for both parties. Another reason the Government may approve a Chapter 4 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.
Before submitting a Chapter 4 Request, an Airman 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