Article 15 / Nonjudicial Punishment

What Is Article 15 / Nonjudicial Punishment (NJP)?

divider that separates content blocks

Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) authorizes commanders to impose “nonjudicial punishment” (NJP) for “minor” misconduct, such as petty theft, using marijuana, or showing up late for watch. The services use different terms for NJP, including “Article 15,” “Office Hours,” or “Captain’s Mast.”

What Are My Rights At Article 15 / NJP?

divider that separates content blocks

At NJP, the commander acts as prosecutor, defense counsel, judge, and jury. For this reason, and unless you’re embarked on a vessel, you have the right to refuse NJP and request a court martial instead. If you accept NJP, you have the right to a personal appearance before the commander, the right to remain silent, the right to be accompanied by a spokesperson, the right to be informed of the evidence against you, the right to examine that evidence, and the right to present matters on your own behalf.

What Are Article 15 / NJP Hearings Like?

divider that separates content blocks

NJP hearings are usually formal and speedy. You will usually be in dress uniform and report to a formal location where your commander and your leadership will be waiting. The commander will read from a script that has you reporting and outlines the evidence against you. Sometimes, witnesses will be called, and you’ll then have the opportunity to speak. The commander will then announce their finding and impose a sentence. If you receive a sentence, it will begin immediately.

What Kind Of Punishments Might I Receive At NJP?

divider that separates content blocks

The punishments meted out for an NJP offense depend upon the rank of the accused and the rank of the commander imposing it but generally are limited to restriction to certain specified limits, extra duties, forfeiture of pay, and reduction in your rank. Administrative separation from the service may follow NJP but is not a punishment awarded at NJP.

The accused may appeal NJP to the commander’s higher authority. This must be done promptly and be based on the grounds that the NJP was either unjust or that the punishment was too severe.  If done properly, NJP appeals offer a real chance of having a conviction overturned or a sentence lessened.

Should I Hire An Experienced Military Attorney To Assist Me With NJP Or To Appeal NJP?

divider that separates content blocks

You will likely be informed that you have the right to discuss the NJP with a military criminal defense attorney before accepting NJP, and you should CERTAINLY do so. Your base military legal office will have uniformed attorneys available to discuss the case with you. However, many of these offices have a policy preventing these attorneys from helping you decide whether you should accept NJP or refuse and request a court-martial, limiting them to simply explaining what you have read in this article.

But you need more than that. Many times, NJP is offered because the evidence against you is not good enough to result in a court-martial conviction. Instead, the commander decides to send the case to NJP because the rules of evidence that would help you at a court martial don’t apply at NJP. This is especially true when the charges involve drug offenses.

Therefore, you need a military attorney who can help you understand not only what will happen if you accept NJP but also what will happen if you refuse NJP. An experienced civilian military attorney can assist you with this decision for little or no cost.

Nonjudicial Punishment Appeal

divider that separates content blocks

You should also seek out military legal advice for your NJP appeal package. These packages should never be overlooked or simply “cut and pasted.” Commands may skip procedural steps, rely upon flimsy evidence, or impose an unlawful sentence, all factors that might result in your NJP being overturned. Having an experienced military attorney who can help you with your package could make a world of difference. Considering that NJP may “kill” your career or even result in the service processing you for early separation, you should ensure that you do everything to protect yourself.

At KML, we have a combined century of experience in dealing with NJPs at all levels, from defending service members at NJP to advising commanders on NJP procedures, filing appeals, and even acting as the appellate officer’s legal advisor. We’re available to you 24/7, and we care. Please give us a call for a free consultation if you think we can help.

× WhatsApp