Article 15 And Non-judicial Punishment (NJP)
Nonjudicial punishment is an administrative tool for a commander to punish a military member for alleged minor violations of the UCMJ. It can have severe consequences to a servicemember’s career. If you are facing nonjudicial punishment, contact Kral Military Defense for a free consultation.
What is Article 15?
Article 15, Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), allows a commander to administer punishment for alleged minor violations of the UCMJ without going through the court-martial process.
Proceedings under Article 15 are called different terms in different branches of the military. In the Army, Air Force, and Space Force, it is known as “Article 15”, while in the Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard it is known as “being NJP’d,” Captain’s Mast (or Admiral’s Mast), or Office Hours.
Offenses Punishable Under Article 15
Article 15, UCMJ, gives a commanding officer power to punish individuals for minor offenses normally not appropriate for a court-martial but more serious than administrative counseling.
NJP is reserved for “military specific” offenses and offenses that may also be civilian offenses, but are minor violations. Sleeping on duty, disobeying military orders, disrespect to superiors, and underage drinking are examples of disciplinary infractions usually punished under Article 15.
The circumstances surrounding the offense are factors for determining whether the charge is minor. For example, willful disobedience of an order during combat can have fatal consequences and be a serious matter, while willful disobedience of an order to report to the barbershop is not as serious an offense.
Part V of the Manual for Courts-Martial provides many of the rules that control nonjudicial punishment. It gives guidance on what is considered a minor offense:
“Whether an offense is minor depends on several factors: the nature of the offense and the circumstances surrounding its commission; the offender’s age, rank, duty assignment, record and experience; and the maximum sentence imposable for the offense if tried by general court-martial.”
DRB and XOI (Navy Only)
The Navy has procedures called a DRB (Disciplinary Review Board) and XOI (Executive Officer’s Inquiry) that are allowed, but not required, before NJP. At a DRB, expect a group of Chief Petty Officers to question you about the alleged offenses and anything else they want to ask you about. There is no standard way of recording what happens in a DRB, and commands do it very differently and sometimes not at all. It is extremely important to have advice before you go to DRB, so you know what to do for the best possible outcome. You have the right to remain silent at your DRB, though you will likely be pressured to make a statement and answer questions.
At XOI, the Executive Officer again asks you questions, and you again have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer any questions. Any differences in your statements between the DRB and XOI will be held against you. At KMD, we have experience preparing our clients for both a DRB and XOI. We have gotten cases dismissed at XOI, and we have developed strategies for DRB and XOI that led to our clients being found not guilty at NJP.
The first step of nonjudicial punishment is for the commander to “offer” a servicemember NJP. The commanding officer must tell the servicemember what the alleged misconduct is and notify the member of their rights under the UCMJ.
Along with the offer, some services will provide the servicemember the evidence, while some will not. Understanding the evidence against you is an important part of deciding whether you’ll accept nonjudicial punishment or turn it down. At KMD, we have developed a reputation and strategies that we leverage to obtain the evidence when your command won’t give it to you directly.
Military Attorney for Nonjudicial Punishment
In Air Force and Space Force Article 15 proceedings, you are provided the right to full representation by an Area Defense Counsel and there are timelines that give the Airman the chance to develop and present their defense. However, no Air Force Area Defense Counsel will have the level of experience as the attorneys at KMD.
In the Navy, Marine Corps, and Army, you do not have the right to full representation by a military defense counsel. In the Army, you will be afforded a group briefing after which you can request to speak to a TDS attorney. In the Navy, you can request a “PERSREP” appointment and in the Marine Corps, DSO (Defense Service Office) has walk-in hours.
You will speak to an attorney for approximately 30 minutes where they give you guidance, but they all have a “limited scope” of representation, meaning they cannot fully represent you throughout the entire process. Other than that appointment, you will be representing yourself.
Civilian Attorney for Nonjudicial Punishment
You have the right to be represented by a Civilian Defense Counsel in NJP cases. We have the ability to give you full, complete representation throughout the entire process. That means we not only advise you whether to accept or turn down NJP, but we help you write your response, draft a legal memo for your commanding officer tailored to your individual case and desired outcome, gather and present evidence, attend the NJP with you as your representative, and draft an appeal if you’re found guilty.
We have seen commands who will offer a Sailor or Marine nonjudicial punishment and tell them they have a very short period of time to respond. Getting in contact with an experienced civilian military defense attorney as fast as possible is very important. Even when there is a very short period of time to respond and it seems insurmountable, we know what to do and how to help you. Don’t wait to give us a call [HYPERLINK].
Can you turn down Nonjudicial Punishment?
When offered an Article 15, the servicemember has the right to accept NJP proceedings or to refuse the NJP and request a court-martial, as long as the person is not attached to a ship. This is a very important decision because it can impact your rank, pay, and any future administrative separation proceedings.
If the servicemember is attached to a ship – even if they have been dry docked for years, they do not have the right to turn down the nonjudicial punishment. This is the reason it is all the more important to have someone on your side helping you through the process. KMD takes our roles as your nonjudicial punishment attorney very seriously, and we will fight on your behalf.
Because you have a right to a spokesperson at Nonjudicial Punishment, we can come with you to your personal appearance. We have appeared with our clients in front of Commanding Generals and at Admiral’s Mast. We will go with you to your ship for Mast. We have been on aircraft carriers, destroyers, amphibious assault ships, and more. We were recently told by a Navy JAG, “In 13 years, I have never seen a Civilian Defense Counsel come on board a ship,” and Steph’s response was “I do this all the time.” You do not have to do this alone.
Turning Down Nonjudicial Punishment
If you request a court-martial, you cannot receive NJP anymore. You are basically putting the ball back in your CO’s court. They have to decide if they will dismiss the case, take other administrative action including administrative discharge processing, or take you to court-martial. The likelihood that an Article 15 or NJP turn down is taken to court-martial varies between the different services and commands, making it all the more important to get advice from an experienced military defense attorney before making the decision to accept or refuse an Article 15/NJP.
Accepting an Article 15
If you accept NJP/Article 15 proceedings, it is not an admission of guilt. Instead, you’re making the choice to have your commanding officer determine if you are guilty or not guilty of the alleged offenses. You are making the choice to allow your commander to act as your judge and jury.
During the personal appearance, your commanding officer must listen to your presentation of your defense. You can present witnesses or other evidence to show why you are not guilty and/or why NJP should be dismissed. As a spokesperson, we can make arguments on your behalf.
After presentation of your case, the commander decides whether you are guilty or not. If you are not guilty, the NJP is dismissed. If you are found guilty, the commander will determine the punishment.
Your rights in nonjudicial punishment
You have rights in nonjudicial punishment proceedings. Among those rights are the right to the presumption of innocence, the right to examine all the evidence relied upon in considering the nonjudicial punishment, the right to present matters in defense, extenuation and mitigation orally, in writing, or both, the right to present witnesses, and the right to a spokesperson.
At KMD, we have seen countless times that a command will try to deprive our clients of those rights, ignore those rights, or take other actions to make it difficult for you to exercise those rights. We will fight for you. We don’t settle for less and neither should you.
Article 15 Punishments
For enlisted personnel, the range of punishments typically imposed under Article 15 involves reduction in grade, restriction, extra duty, and forfeitures of pay.
Generally, E-4 or below can be reduced to E-1. Reduction for E-5, E-6, and E-7 and above varies depending upon service. For example, in the Navy, Chiefs cannot be reduced in grade. In the Marine Corps, SSgt and above cannot be reduced in grade. Other restrictions apply depending on who the person imposing nonjudicial punishment is.
Punishments are different for officers. Officers cannot be reduced in rank. Additionally follow-on administrative actions for an officer can be very significant. It can result in mandatory processing for separation and a requirement to show cause.
Article 15 Appeals
If you are found guilty, you have the right to appeal. Grounds for appeal can include: (1) not enough evidence was presented to find you guilty; (2) the punishment imposed was too severe; or (3) the commander did not follow proper procedures. When reviewing your appeal, the commander can overturn a finding of guilt, lessen the punishment, or keep the punishment the same. Your punishment cannot be increased during an appeal.
There are a variety of administrative actions that can follow nonjudicial punishment. How your case is presented at NJP can drastically impact the results of those actions. Read our information about administrative separation and courts-martial to learn more.
Call us right now for your free consultation.