Armed Forces: Non-Judicial Punishment
Whether you call it “Article 15”, or “Captain’s Mass”, or refer to it as “NJP”, or “Office Hours,” non-judicial punishment is a process used by all five armed forces to handle misconduct by military members. It serves as an alternative to court-martial for offenses that warrant disciplinary punishment but are not serious enough to require a court-martial prosecution. If your command is alleging misconduct on your part and your commanding officer is considering a non-judicial form of punishment; it is imperative that you understand how this process works and what your rights are under UCMJ Article 15. Only in this way, will you be able to make an informed and tactical decision between accepting the non-judicial proceedings or pursuing trial by court-martial. At Monder Law Group, we have years of experience serving all our military service members in San Diego. We will help guide you thru the military justice system, fighting the allegations against you and ensuring that your rights are protected at all times.
Understanding Uniform Code of Military Justice Article 15
Pursuant to UCMJ Article 15, “the imposition and enforcement of disciplinary punishment for any act or omission is not a bar to trial by court-martial for a serious crime or offense growing out of the same act or omission, and not properly punishable under this article; but the fact that a disciplinary punishment has been enforced may be shown by the accused upon trial, and when so shown shall be considered in determining the measure of punishment to be adjudged in the event of a finding of guilty.”
Basically, Article 15 gives commanding officers the discretion to administratively discipline service members with minor violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Ultimately, it is up to the service member to either accept the non-judicial punishment proceedings offered by his or her command or turn it down and demand a trial by court-martial.
What offenses are eligible for Article 15?
Minor offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice are eligible for non-judicial punishment. For example, disobeying standing orders, sleeping on watch, reporting late to duty, and providing false information. The commanding officer imposing the punishment has discretion to determine what offenses are considered minor.
Who can issue an Article 15?
Only the service member’s command may issue a non-judicial form of punishment pursuant to Article 15. The commanding officer will be responsible for reviewing the evidence against the service member and deciding whether and how much non-judicial punishment to impose.
Are Article 15 proceedings mandatory?
No, the process is voluntary. Service members do not have to accept non-judicial punishment proceedings, they have a right to turn down the Article 15 and demand a trial by court-martial. Unless, the service member is attached to a mew or embarked on a vessel. In which case the service member does not have a right to refuse imposition of an Article 15.
What happens if a service member refuses an Article 15?
The command has two options, it can either choose to drop the case against the service member or to prosecute the service member via court-martial.
What is the benefit of an Article 15 proceeding?
Unlike, court-martial proceedings, Article 15 proceedings do not carry the risk of a criminal record.
Service Members’ Rights Under Article 15
What rights do service members have prior to the imposition of an Article 15?
First, service members must be notified that an Article 15 is being considered. Next, they must be given a description of the alleged offenses and a summary of the evidence upon which the allegations are based. Lastly, service members must be notified of their right to refuse the imposition of punishment and any rights that the they have if the Article 15 is accepted.
Can service members waive their right to an Article 15?
Yes, a service member who fails to request a trial by court-martial waives his or her right to not be tried through non-judicial proceedings.
Are service members allowed to have legal representation?
Yes, it is imperative that you understand that just because a judge advocate will not be provided for you, does not mean that you do not have a right to the advice of private counsel. You absolutely have the right to consult an experienced military attorney throughout the proceedings.
Who may be a spokesperson for the service member?
A private attorney, GI Rights counselor, a family member or a coworker from the same unit. However, be aware of the limitations of a GI Rights counselor; as they are precluded from giving any form of legal advice.
Why should service members consider retaining private counsel?
It is crucial that service members retain private legal counsel to advise them throughout the Article 15 proceedings and represent their interests during the hearing.
Do service members have a right to know what evidence is being used against them?
Yes, service members have a right to be informed of and examine many evidence their command has against them relating to them offense.
Do service members have a right to have a witness present?
Yes, witnesses may be present so long as their appearance does not result in undue delay. If the witness is a service member, he or she must not be kept from other important duties. If the witness is a civilian, the witness must not require reimbursement by the government to be present.
Article 15 Hearing
Are Article 15 hearings open to the public?
Yes, the proceedings are generally open to the public unless the commanding officer determines that the proceedings should be closed for good cause. Good cause will depend on the charges and the particular circumstances of each case.
Does acceptance of the Article 15 serve as an admission of guilt?
No, accepting the Article 15 only means that the service member chose not to have a judicial process and no longer has a right to a trial by court-martial.
What happens after a service member accepts an Article 15?
The commander becomes both the judge and jury for the case. The service member will have an opportunity to present his or her case to the commander. At the end, the commander will make the determination whether the service member is guilty or not.
What happens if the service member is found not guilty?
The Article 15 proceeding will end without consequences imposed.
What happens if the service member is found guilty?
The commander has the authority to set the punishment deemed appropriate. The commander can also decide not to impose the punishment or to suspend the punishment, in whole or in part.
What is a suspended punishment?
A suspended punishment is a form of probation. If the service member is found guilty and receives a sentence, he or she may request for a suspended punishment. This allows the sentence to be suspended during a probationary period.
How does suspended punishment work?
If there are no other incidents during the probationary period, the punishment that was suspended will be removed.
Can an Article 15 ruling be appealed?
Yes, but service members may only appeal a non-judicial punishment one time. The appeal must be made in writing and within five calendar days of the Article 15 hearing.
How does the appeal process work?
The service member has two options, the appeal can either be made to the command that imposed the original Article 15 sentence or to the next higher level in the chain-of-command.
What is the statute of limitations for Article 15?
Non-judicial punishments have a statute of limitations of two
years. This means that the Article 15 may not be imposed for
offenses which were committed more than two years before the
date of imposition.
Forms of Non-Judicial Punishment
How are punishments determined under Article 15?
The extent of the non-judicial form of punishment a service member may receive will depend on that person’s pay grade and the pay grade of the officer that is imposing the punishment.
What if the officer imposing the punishment is an O-4 and up?
The service member could face the following forms of non-judicial punishment: reprimand; extra duty for a maximum of 45 days; restriction on base for a maximum of 60 days; confinement on diminished rations; correctional custody for a maximum of 30 days; forfeiture of not more than half of base pay for a maximum of 60 days; reduction in rank for E-4’s and below; reduction in pay grade for E-5’s and above.
What if the officer imposing the punishment is an O-3 and below?
The service member could face the following forms of non-judicial punishment: admonition; extra duty for a maximum of 14 days; restriction on base for a maximum of 14 days; confinement on diminished rations; correctional custody for a maximum of 7 days; forfeiture of not more than 7 days base pay; reduction of one grade for E-4’s and below.
At Monder Law Group, we understand what is at stake. The decision to accept or refuse an Article 15 should not be taken lightly. For each choice carries its own risk, but with the representation of an experienced military criminal defense attorney, you can make a calculated choice to avoid the risks.
The first thing you need to do is call Attorney Vik Monder at (619)405-0063 so he may assess the severity of the allegations against you. From there, his team of experts will work on gathering all your personnel records, dependents’ information, character letters, community service, military achievements, education goals, finances and make list of potential witnesses that could testify to your positive character. Attorney Monder will then analyze all of this evidence thoroughly to present you with the best defense strategy, whether in the form of a mitigation packet for an Article 15 hearing or a trial brief for a court-martial.
Contact San Diego Military Defense Attorney Vik Monder for a FREE consultation today at: 619-405-0063