Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) authorizes commanders to impose “Non-Judicial 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.” 


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.  


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 chain of 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 his or her finding and impose a sentence. If you receive a sentence, it will begin immediately.


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, arrest in quarters, correctional custody, extra duties, forfeiture of pay, detention of pay and reduction in grade. Administrative separation from the service may follow NJP but is not a punishment awarded at NJP.  

The accused may appeal NJP to the commanders higher authority. This must be done in a timely manner and be based upon grounds that the NJP was either unjust or disproportionate to the offense. If done properly, NJP appeals offer a real chance of having a conviction overturned or a sentence lessened.  


You will likely be informed that you have the right to discuss the NJP with an attorney before accepting NJP and you should CERTAINLY do so. Your base 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 your NJP rights to you.

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 lawyer who can help you understand not only what will happen if you accept NJP, but what will happen if you refuse NJP. If your local base legal office can’t help you with this, an experienced civilian military attorney can assist you with this decision for little cost. 


You should also seek out 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 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 King Military Law, we have decades of experience in dealing with NJPs at all levels, from defending servicemembers at NJP, to advising commanders on NJP procedures, to filing appeals and even acting as the appellate officer’s legal advisor. We’re available to you 24/7. Please give us a call for a free consultation if you think we can help.

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Gabe CarothersGabe Carothers
03:05 30 Jul 22
King military law truly cares, and will be by your side every single step of the way. If you are even thinking of calling them. Do It. They are true professionals who care. Thank you king military law.
Ro JairamRo Jairam
15:29 12 Jul 22
Don is the guy you want in your corner. When you are up against the resources of the military and government in general, it can be overwhelming. The military JAGs who may eventually get to defend you do their best, but they are often overrun with cases and can only represent you after you’ve been officially been informed that you’re going to court-martial or administrative separation board.I won’t go into too many details about my specific situation, but Don’s vast experience as a prior judge and JAGC CAPT, his knowledge of the law and particular the UCMJ, and quite frankly, his connections to those in the military legal circles, may have saved my career.Do yourself a favor and call King Military Law for a free consultation. Especially if you think things are going to go sideways (like they did in my case), you should give serious consideration toward hiring an attorney.I’ll end with this since I’m being vague. My situation ended in an outcome that the JAGs were flabbergasted by. I had to make some financial sacrifices to hire this warrior but it was well worth it in the end. The resolution to my situation was fair and equitable, and that’s all I could hope for in the beginning.Thanks Don, and keep fighting the good fight.
Coleman ProffittColeman Proffitt
18:19 26 Jun 22
Don King is a man of integrity, professionalism, and work ethic. He worked tirelessly on my case and was always available for my questions. He made sure that I was well informed on the entire situation and all outcomes. I am thankful that I had Don King on my case, and I would give him the highest recommendation to anyone in need.
02:07 09 Apr 22
We only had a Brief conversation. But within those few minutes, He made me smile with relief. He gave me better advice then three lawyers a jag and legal on my ship. I got hit with article 112a, when my ship found a dab pen in my belongings. After his consultation, I feel like I can put my mine at ease. highly recommend 10 out of 10!!!!!!
Roberto AugustinRoberto Augustin
01:40 25 Feb 22
If you are facing any legal issues within your command, please do not hesitate to contact Mr. Don. He is one of the best military attorneys you could ever ask for. He is sincere and extremely knowledgeable about the military law. I was in the process of getting separated for a pattern of misconduct a few months before my EOS. I felt so hopeless and scared that I would lose all my benefits. I waited at the last minute to contact Mr. Don. God knows that was one of the best decisions I have ever made. He took his time to listen to my issues and told me right away that he could help me. After I provided him with all the information that was needed for my case, he and his team were able to write a very successful letter to my command admiral and allow me to get out with an honorable discharge. The only regret I have by choosing Attorney Don and his team is not contacting them much earlier than I did.Thanks again, Mr. Don. I greatly appreciate you and your team for helping me win my case.

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