Non-Judicial Punishment (NJP)
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When a member of the United States Military commits a minor infraction under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, a commanding officer may offer what is called a non-judicial punishment as opposed to a trial by court-martial. Accused service members may either accept or refuse non-judicial punishment (NJP). The resulting disciplinary proceedings and punishments will differ depending on whether or not they choose to accept NJP.
Each of the branches of the military allow the accused to speak with an attorney prior to deciding whether to accept or refuse NJP (unless you’re in the Navy, on ship and underway – then you cannot refuse NJP). However, the military counsel are only allowed to give very general advice and may not develop an attorney-client relationship at this stage of the process. A more experienced private criminal defense attorney can speak to the service member more extensively, assist in the preparation for the NJP and give sound advice as to any decision to accept or refuse NJP. Unfortunately, if the service member does indeed choose to accept NJP, an attorney typically is not allowed to be present nor participate in the actual hearing. There can be some exceptions to this rule in certain NJPs.
If you have been offered NJP, it may be in your best interest to consult with a private criminal defense attorney with experience in military law and NJP proceedings. Aden Wilkie of the The Wilkie Law Group is a seasoned military defense attorney with years of experience handling these types of cases. As such, he can provide you with unmatched advice, prepare you for your hearing, and set you up for the best possible outcome in your case.
What is Non-Judicial Punishment?
Military law is much different from civilian law. In fact, members of the armed forces are governed by their own unique set of laws called the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Non-judicial punishment, or NJP for short, is reserved for minor violations of the UCMJ. If accused of committing a minor offense, a military service member may be offered non-judicial punishment (Article 15) at the discretion of his or her command. The service member may either choose to accept NJP or they can refuse and demand court-martial, instead.
Non-judicial punishment goes by a few different names depending on the branch of military in question. This includes Article 15, Captain’s Mast or Admiral’s Mast, and Office Hours.
UCMJ Article 15
Both Army and Air Force members refer to non-judicial punishment as “Article 15.” Air Force personnel have an absolute right to consult with legal counsel before deciding whether or not to accept NJP. Army personnel may also consult with defense counsel prior to their acceptance or refusal, except in cases taking place at the Summarized NJP level.
Captain’s Mast or Admiral’s Mast
Navy and Coast Guard personnel use the term “Captain’s Mast” or sometimes “Admiral’s Mast” to refer to NJP proceedings. However, neither branch of service possesses the right to refuse NJP if they are at sea.
Members of the Marine Corps refer to NJP as “Office Hours.” Like with the Navy and Coast Guard, Marine Corps personnel are not permitted to refuse NJP if they are at sea.
Examples of Offenses That May Warrant NJP
As previously stated, only minor offenses may warrant an NJP hearing. For more serious violations, the case will typically be heard at a court-martial.
A few examples of minor offenses that may warrant NJP include:
- Petty theft
- Providing false information
- Reporting late for duty
- Destruction of government property
- Disrespect to superiors
- Sleeping on watch
- Disobeying standing orders
- Underage drinking
- Traffic violations
- Reporting back late from Libo
Who Can Recommend NJP?
Only commanding officers may impose non-judicial punishment. So, when a service member commits a minor offense, their commander decides whether or not to offer NJP or to pursue court-martial action against the individual. However, it is at the sole discretion of the accused military member if they decide to accept or refuse NJP.
Potential Penalties for NJP Conviction
A guilty verdict following an NJP hearing does not result in a federal conviction the way it would for a court-martial criminal conviction. As such, the maximum penalties a service member may face are much less severe than they would be at the court-martial level. This is not to say that service members shouldn’t take their non-judicial punishment case seriously, as there are still serious repercussions for those found guilty at NJP.
The potential penalties assigned to a service member for an NJP conviction depend on 1) the rank of the accused and 2) the rank of the officer imposing punishment. In general, the typical punishments for those found guilty by non-judicial punishment authority include:
- Correctional custody
- Restriction to limits
- Extra duties
- Reduction in pay grade
- Reduction in rank
Types of Non-Judicial Punishment
Below, we’ll provide the different types of NJP punishment for both officers and enlisted members accused of misconduct as prescribed by Part V of the Manual for Courts-Martial.
Non-Judicial Punishment for Officers
For commissioned and warrant officers accused of misconduct, the maximum punishments depend on the rank of the imposing officer. If the NJP is imposed by any commanding officer, the accused may face restriction to specific limits (with or without suspension from duty) for no more than 30 days.
However, if the imposing officer holds general court-martial authority, is an officer of general or flag rank in command, or is a principal assistant, the accused may face the following maximum punishments:
- Arrest in quarters for up to 30 days
- Forfeiture of up to ½ of one month’s pay for two months
- Restriction to specified limits (with or without suspension from duty) for up to 60 days
Non-Judicial Punishment for Enlisted Members in USMC
For enlisted members accused of minor violations of the UCMJ, there are 3 different types of NJP that may be imposed: Company Grade Article 15, Field Grade Article 15 and General/ Flag Officer NJP.
Company NJP (E-1 to E-3)
Commanders of grades 0-3 and below as well as Commissioned Officers in Charge (OIC) may impose the following penalties at the Summary level imposed on E-1 to E-3:
- Extra duties for up to 14 days
- Restriction with extra duties for up to 14 days
- Restriction to specified limits (i.e., medical facilities, mess hall, barracks, work, and place of worship)
- Reprimand or Admonition
- Reduction by one grade
- 7 days forfeitures
- 7 days at CCU (may not be combined with restriction or extra duties)
- 3 days bread and water (DIMRATS) but only if on ship and underway
Company NJP (E-4 to E-9)
Commanders of grades 0-3 and below as well as Commissioned Officers in Charge (OIC) may impose the following penalties at the Summary level imposed on E-4 to E-9:
- 7 days CCU (may not be combined with restriction or extra duties)
- 7 days forfeitures
- 1 Grade
- 14 Days Extra Duties (Extra Duties and Restriction may be combined but added together cannot exceed the maximum possible time for extra duties – cannot be more than 14 days total).
- 14 Days Restriction
- Reduction (E-4 & 5 may only be reduced)
Company Grade NJP
Company Grade Officers of grades 0-3 or below may impose the aforementioned penalties as well as:
- Correctional custody of up to 7 days
- Confinement on diminished rations
- Forfeiture of up to 7 days base pay
- Rank reduction of one grade for E-4 and below (no rank reduction for E-5 and above)
- Admonition or reprimand
Field Grade NJP
Field Grade Officers of grades 0-4 and above may impose:
- Correctional custody of up to 30 days
- Confinement on diminished rations
- Forfeiture of up to ½ of base pay for 60 days
- Rank reduction
- One grade for E-5 and up
- Reduction to E-1 for E-4 and below
- Restriction for up to 60 days
- Extra duties for up to 45 days
- Admonition of reprimand
Other Potential Consequences
It should also be noted that other adverse administrative actions may result from an NJP guilty verdict. This includes an Unfavorable Information File (UIF) in your Official Military Personnel File, a derogatory performance or Fitness Report evaluation, and in some cases, administrative separation leading to an Other Than Honorable discharge and the end of your military career.
Does NJP Stay On Your Military Record?
If a military member is found guilty pursuant to an NJP hearing, the offense will be reflected on their service record. However, the offense will only stay on their record for two years before being removed.
Should I Accept NJP?
It is important to remember that if you accept NJP proceedings, this does not necessarily mean you plead guilty. Rather, it means that you have chosen to waive a trial by court-martial and leave the fate of your case in the hands of your commander. Unlike in a trial, your commander will act as both the judge and the jury, ultimately determining whether or not you should be held guilty for your alleged misconduct.
If you do accept nonjudicial punishment, you are the only one who can present evidence on your own behalf. While a civilian or military lawyer can advise you on whether or not to accept NJP and help you prepare your defense beforehand, they cannot advocate on your behalf during the NJP proceedings as they can in courts-martial.
Overall, it is up to you whether or not you choose to accept NJP or demand trial by court-martial. However, an experienced military defense attorney like Aden Wilkie can advise you of your rights and help you decide which course of action may be preferable in your specific situation.
Refusing Non-Judicial Punishment
Should you refuse NJP, it will be left up to your command to decide whether to drop the case or bring it to court-martial. If your command decides to forward the case to court-martial, the consequences you face increase drastically in severity. You may be looking at jail time, rank reduction, punitive discharge, and even the denial of benefits or future employment opportunities.
As you can see, there is a lot on the line for those who take the chance of refusing NJP. In either case, it is in your best interest to hire an attorney who can provide both Article 15 counseling as well as court-martial defense.
How Military Criminal Defense Attorney Aden Wilkie Can Help With Your NJP Proceedings
When you face non-judicial punishment, having an experienced civilian lawyer on your side can make all the difference in the outcome of your case. While civilian-military lawyers cannot present evidence on your behalf during the actual proceeding, they can:
- Collect all pertinent evidence and identify appropriate witnesses
- Thoroughly prepare witnesses to provide direct support for your innocence or to mitigate your guilt
- Ensure that you are presented in the best possible light during the proceedings before your Commander
When you work with Aden Wilkie of the The Wilkie Law Group, you can rest assured knowing that he will provide unparalleled advice and adequately prepare you for your hearing. He knows what it takes to build a strong case on your behalf and provide evidence that can help mitigate the repercussions you may be facing. This may include proof of your military achievements, personal accolades, exemplary duty performance, and witnesses who can vouch for your good character and reputation.
Contact a Non-Judicial Punishment Attorney
Utilizing the knowledge and experience of a skilled military defense attorney like Aden Wilkie is of the utmost importance in cases like these. Take the first step in securing your legal representation by scheduling a consultation with The Wilkie Law Group at 910-333-9626 today.