U.S. Military Lawyer - The Law Office of Stephen P. Karns

Non-Judicial Punishment (NJP)

Nonjudicial punishment (NJP) is a leadership tool providing military commanders a prompt and essential means of maintaining good order and discipline. NJP proceedings may be known by different terms among the Services, such as "Article 15", "Office Hours" or "Captainís Mast", but the purpose of NJP, and for the most part its procedures, are common among the Services.

For Minor Offenses. NJP is used to discipline members for minor violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and serves to correct misconduct without attaching the stigma of a court-martial conviction to the member. The Manual for Courts-Martial defines a minor offense for NJP purposes as "ordinarily an offense for which the maximum sentence imposed would not include a dishonorable discharge or confinement for longer than one year if tried by a general court-martial." NJP is a disciplinary measure more serious than administrative action (e.g. a letter of reprimand), but less serious than trial by court-martial.

Article 15, UCMJ, And Regulations. NJP is permitted by Article 15, UCMJ (Section 815 of Title 10, United States Code) and is governed by Part V of the Manual for Courts-Martial and by service regulations. Prior to imposition of NJP, a servicemember must first be notified by the commander of the nature of the misconduct of which he or she is accused, of the evidence supporting the accusation, and of the commanderís intent to impose NJP. The member may then be allowed to consult with a defense counsel to determine whether to consent to a NJP proceeding, or to refuse NJP and demand instead a trial by court-martial. The major difference among the services with regard to NJP is that servicemembers attached to or embarked in a vessel may not refuse imposition of NJP.

Accused Ultimately Chooses the Forum. Consenting to participation in a nonjudicial punishment proceeding is not an admission of guilt. By accepting, the accused declines to exercise the right to demand trial by court-martial regarding the offenses alleged. If an accused demands trial when presented with a proposed NJP action, the commander is thereafter prohibited from going forward with nonjudicial punishment. Prior to imposing NJP, the commander will hold a hearing at which the member may be present. The member may also have a spokesperson attend the hearing, may present evidence to the commander, and may request that the commander hear from certain witnesses. The commander must consider any information offered during the hearing, and must be personally convinced that the member actually committed misconduct before imposing punishment.

Permissible Punishments. Permissible punishments for enlisted personnel can include such actions as reduction in rank, forfeiture of pay (up to Ĺ of one monthís pay per month for two months), restriction to base or to the ship (up to 60 days), extra duties, correctional custody (up to 30 days), and a reprimand. For officers, permissible punishments can include forfeiture of pay (up to Ĺ of one monthís pay per month for two months), restriction to base or to the ship (up to 60 days), arrest in quarters (up to 30 days), and a reprimand. The actual maximum punishment under the circumstances depends upon the rank of the commander who imposes the punishment. Higher-ranking commanders may impose greater punishments than lower-ranking commanders may.

Right To Appeal. If the member considers the punishment to be unjust or to be disproportionate to the misconduct committed, he or she may appeal to higher authority. The appeal authority may set aside the punishment, decrease its severity, or deny the appeal, but may not increase the severity of the punishment.

Not A Conviction Record. Receipt of a nonjudicial punishment does not constitute a criminal conviction.

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