Vandenberg AFB Defense Lawyer

Sitting 10 miles north of Lompoc, California is Vandenberg Air Force Base. Operated by the United States Air Force since 1941, the base is a prominent missile testing site. It also supports the LGM-30G Minuteman III Ballistic Missile evaluation program. If you are facing disciplinary action while serving at Vandenberg Air Force Base, do not hesitate to contact attorney Patrick J. McLain right away.

Military Discipline at Vandenberg AFB

There are two common types of military discipline you could encounter while serving at Vandenberg AFB: nonjudicial punishment and trial by court-martial.

Nonjudicial Punishment

Better known as Article 15 in the Air Force, nonjudicial punishment (NJP) carries significant consequences despite not being a formal criminal hearing. While a conviction will not show up on your criminal record, it has the potential to lead to separation proceedings from the Air Force.

Your commanding officer will oversee your NJP, and in many cases will also initiate the process. You have the right to refuse, however. If you reject an NJP, your case will be taken up as a trial by court-martial instead. This decision has risks and rewards, as court-martials carry the potential for heavier penalties. However, a trial also offers some formal protections that are absent in an Article 15. No matter what you choose, you should always discuss your options with an attorney first.

You have the right to appeal an unfavorable decision in an NJP. However, the case will not be heard by an appellate court. Instead, the appeal will go up your chain of command.


Unlike an NJP, a trial by court-martial could result in a mark on your permanent criminal record. The process also carries significant penalties, but it also involves formal rules of evidence that could work in your favor. Instead of your commanding officer, a military judge will preside over a trial.

If you are found guilty, you are entitled to appeal the decision to a designated appellate court. In many cases, appellate review will occur automatically. During both trial and appeal, you have the right to select your civilian defense counsel to represent you.

Common Offenses at Vandenberg Air Force Base

Some charges are more likely than others to result in a trial by court-martial. Common examples of the offenses heard at each proceeding are listed below.

Common NJP Offenses

  • Unauthorized absence (AWOL)
  • Drunk on duty
  • Fraternization
  • Violation of orders
  • Destroying government property

Common Court-Martial Offenses

Potential Penalties

With a conviction at either NJP or court-martial, you are likely to face penalties that include:

  • Loss of rank
  • Loss of pay
  • Restriction, and
  • Extra duties.

In some trials by court-martial, you could also face more serious charges like punitive discharge or confinement. Remember, these penalties are not guaranteed. If you prevail in your hearing, you will avoid these consequences entirely.

Your Right to Civilian Defense Counsel

You are entitled to hire a civilian attorney at any point during these disciplinary proceedings. To discuss how a skilled attorney could benefit your defense, contact retired Marine Corps judge Patrick J. McLain right away.