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Military Law: Non-Judicial Punishment

Miami Military Lawyers Non-Judicial Punishment (Article 15)

Non-judicial punishment (NJP) is conducted by commanders to discipline members accused of committing minor offenses under Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The Miami criminal defense attorneys at DMT have represented dozens of clients at Article 15 proceedings across all branches of military service. The partner in charge of the military law division at DMT is a Miami military lawyer and a former active duty U.S. Army JAG Corp captain who spent several years on active duty both prosecuting and defending service members charged with offenses such as burglary, grand theft, sexual battery, rape, aggravated battery, manslaughter and many other offenses chargeable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Any service member subject to non-judicial punishment by the military should contact an experienced military criminal defense lawyer to defend the charges. While not a serious as court-martial, non-judicial punishment can result in a loss of rank and pay, and most importantly can form the basis of a administrative separation resulting in a less than honorable discharge.

The army and the air force refer to non-judicial punishment as "Article 15's", while the navy and the coast guard refer to non-judicial punishment as a "captain's mast" and the marines refer to non-judicial punishment as "office hours". Despite the difference in nomenclature, all of the rules for non-judicial punishment are set forth under the UCMJ. For a commanding officer to initiate non-judicial punishment, he or she must have a reasonable belief that a person assigned to his or her command committed a minor criminal offense under the UCMJ. Article 15 under the UCMJ gives commanders the right to punish service members within the command for minor offenses. A minor offense is defined under the UCMJ as misconduct that is normally not more serious than cases handled at the summary court-martial level. Other factors, such the nature of the offense and the circumstances under which the crime was committed are used in determining whether non-judicial punishment or a court-martial is appropriate. Determining whether a case should be resolved as a minor offense under non-judicial punishment or at a court-martial is in the sole discretion of the commander.

Rights Under Non-judicial Punishment

A service member can refuse accept non-judicial punishment and demand a trial by court-martial. Before making that decision, a service member should contact a military defense attorney to evaluate the strength and weaknesses of the case. Non-judicial punishment will usually commence after the commander has completed an investigation into the offense. If the command decides to initiate non-judicial punishment, the commander must inform the service member of the specific article under the UCMJ which he or she is accused of committing. The command must also provide the information and evidence upon which the allegation is based. The service member must be allowed time to seek counsel regarding the non-judicial punishment. The member must then decide whether or not to accept the non-judicial punishment. If non-judicial punishment (NJP) is acceptable, the commander will hold a hearing where the evidence will be evaluated to determine if NJP will be imposed and what punishment will be handed to the service member. The service member can have a spokesperson or even a military defense lawyer present at the hearing to defend the allegations.

Limits on Punishments

The level of punishment handed down depends on the rank of the commander imposing the NJP. Commanders with the rank above O-4 have greater punishment powers than officers with the rank of O-3 and below. The level of punishment handed down depends on the rank of the service member for which NJP will be imposed. Punishments can include reduction in rank, depending on the rank of the offending service member, forfeiture of pay, restriction to post, extra duty and reprimands.

Appeals

If the commander decides to impose NJP, the service member has right to appeal the ruling within 5 calendar days. The appeal must be forwarded to the commander who imposed the punishment. There are two grounds for appeal. The appeal must allege that the punishment was unjust or the punishment was disproportionate to the offense committed. Unjust punishment potentially exists when the evidence provided to the command is not sufficient to prove the allegations or there is an issue with the statute of limitations. Disproportionate punishment exists when the punishment is too severe considering the nature of the offense, lack of aggravating factors, or the fact that the record of the service member was not considered by the commander. Appeals are rarely granted as commanders generally do not like to reverse previous decisions.

If your commander is considering or has decided to impose non-judicial punishment (NJP) against military service member, contact the Miami criminal lawyers at DMT. An experienced criminal attorney is available every day of the year, 24 hours a day to speak with you regarding your situation. Allow us the opportunity to help protect your rights and defend you case. You can call our office at (305) 396-3982 or reach us by completing the form on our contact page or by sending an e-mail.