Protecting The Rights of Those who Fight for Our Country

Article 15 / Non-Judicial Punishment

Defend Your Reputation & Career with The Military Lawyers at The Hanzel Law Firm

If you are a Marine, Sailor, Soldier, Airman, or Coastguardsman facing Article 15 / NJP punishment, you risk loss of pay, rank, status, reputation and career. Those who fail to understand their rights before making the serious decisions that an Article 15 / NJP requires, increase their risks.

Non-judicial punishment (NJP) also known as Article 15, Captain’s Mast or Office Hours, is a commander’s tool codified into law by Article 15 of the UCMJ as a means to preserve good order and discipline with swift punitive action that can be accomplished much faster than a court-martial. Section V of the Manual for Courts-Martial provides you with rights and guidelines for NJP, which have been further defined by each service department within their service regulations.

If you are not attached to a ship, then you must make a choice when charged with misconduct under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ): Accept NJP, and face almost certain minor punishment in addition to possible administrative separation, or refuse, and risk a court-martial that can carry more serious punishments and a federal conviction.

At The Hanzel Law Firm, we have advised hundreds of servicemembers in this situation. We understand how case-specific every Article 15 / NJP decision is and how important this decision is for you. For every client, it will depend on how strong the evidence is, your tolerance for risk, and where you are in your career. Having an attorney who understands these facets and can see the long-range picture can help you to make the best decision in your case. Most military TDS / DSO offices will not detail you an attorney for a marine NJP. Typically, the only way to ensure you have personalized representation at this stage is to hire a civilian attorney. As NJP often is a precursor to administrative separation, having an attorney advising you early can help you to make the best long-term decisions when it comes to dealing with your Article 15 / NJP and beyond.

No matter where you are stationed. when you are charged at Article 15 / NJP, seek legal help. Call our Non-Judicial Punishment lawyers at (843) 202-4714 to speak with us.

Understanding Non-Judicial Punishment in South Carolina

NJP military

Unlike at court-martial, Article 15 punishment never results in a criminal conviction, and you cannot be separated from the military at NJP, although administrative separation often follows NJP. You also have the right to appeal an Article 15 punishment to the immediate supervisor of the commander who imposed NJP within 5 days of its imposition. Whether you can be reduced in rank, how long you can lose pay and will have extra duties/restriction, and what impact your punishment will have on your career depends on which service you are in, the type of NJP you are taken to, and your pay-grade. Because Article 15 matters are considered non-judicial cases, defendants do not have a right to counsel being present, although they do have the right to consult with counsel in advance. It is a common myth that you can “demand court-martial” rather than go to NJP. The reality is, if you do not fall under the vessel exception, you can refuse Article 15 / NJP, but it is up to your command whether it wants to take you to a court-martial. Many commands choose to administratively separate servicemembers instead. If you have enough time in the service, you can request an administrative separation board. If not, you may be summarily drummed out of the service with less than an honorable discharge. It is important to understand the factors that play into these command decisions before you decide whether to accept Article 15 / NJP or not.

Each military department handles NJP differently based on its own customs, history and service regulations. For example, the Army and Air Force more frequently utilize less serious forms of Article 15, such as Summarized Article 15, which does not go into a Soldier’s OMPF, and Company-Grade Article 15, which carries lower punishments, than the sea services. They are more likely to hold Field-Grade Article 15, which is the most serious type with the highest punishments, for offenses they consider more serious, like a positive urinalysis for illegal drugs.

In the Navy and Coast Guard, NJP is often known as Captain’s Mast, and it most frequently is imposed by ship and squadron commanders. As a result, nearly all of the Navy and Coast Guard NJP’s are “field-grade” level, meaning you would face the maximum punishments that can be imposed at NJP.

Who Can Impose Nonjudicial Punishment?

Nonjudicial punishment can be imposed by a commander in the military which allows punitive action to discipline for minor violations under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Nonjudicial cases can be appealed to the immediate supervisor of the commander as long as it is within 5 days of its imposition.

Why you should speak to us about your Article 15 / NJP

It is always a good idea to speak to a lawyer who understands the military before going to Article 15 / NJP. Why? Because there are long-term consequences to a marine NJP decision that you need to be aware of. Given the importance of your career, benefits like your GI Bill, and your reputation, you should never go to NJP without first speaking to a defense lawyer who understands the military.

Three decision-points where a defense attorney can prove crucial at the Article 15 / NJP stage:

  • Helping you decide whether or not to accept NJP
  • Helping you develop a strategy for how to handle your NJP
  • Helping you exercise your right to appeal your NJP

While TDS / DSO offices provide free defense advice called “PERSREPS” (i.e. initial consults) about Article 15 / NJP, these are often with junior uniformed attorneys, and they are rarely allowed to be detailed to you at the NJP stage. At The Hanzel Law Firm, we also provide an initial consult for free. Not only have we advised hundreds of servicemembers in similar situations, but no matter where you are stationed, you have the option of retaining us full-time to help your case, not just at the NJP phase but beyond.

Get personalized, tailored advice for your case now. Contact The Hanzel Law Firm today to request a free consultation with our knowledgeable team.

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