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Military non-judicial punishment: What is it?

Although the various branches of the military call it different names, such as Article 15, Captain’s Mast or Office Hours, the term applies to the same thing, namely, non-judicial punishment.

That form of punishment can differ materially from the process and outcome of a court-martial, which is a criminal proceeding under military law that can result in truly harsh penalties for defendant servicemembers, including years of incarceration and dishonorable discharge.

As is made clear on the website of a national military and veterans’ organization, so-called NJP typically applies to less severe offenses, being more the equivalent of a civil proceeding that results in administrative penalties.

Despite having the distinction of meting out comparatively “minor” punishment, NJP outcomes can still bring adverse consequences to an alleged offender. Those range widely, from correctional custody and pay loss to extra duties and reduction in grade.

Thus, NJP punishment is something that needs to be considered with due appreciation by a servicemember for the potential effects it can have on his or her career.

The process for NJP is well laid out under military law, with an accused party having a full panoply of legal rights. Those include the right to be represented by legal counsel and, notably, the right to actually refuse any punishment that is sought to be imposed.

Under that scenario, a commanding officer must make the decision whether to proceed further by recommending a court-martial proceeding.

Thus, weighty considerations can attach to non-judicial punishment. An experienced military defense attorney can help an accused servicemember fully identify them and evaluate options.


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