Non-Judicial Punishment Explained

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Article 15

Non-Judicial Punishment (NJP) is known by different terms among the services, such as "Article 15," "Office Hours," or "Captain's Mast." The purpose of NJP is to discipline service members for minor offenses such as reporting late for duty, petty theft, destroying government property, sleeping on watch, providing false information, and disobeying standing orders.

The punishments meted out for an NJP offense are limited to confinement on diminished rations, restriction to certain specified limits, arrest in quarters, correctional custody, extra duties, forfeiture of pay, detention of pay and reduction in grade. 

Before facing a commander in NJP, an accused is formally notified of their rights and responsibilities under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). This includes:

  • written notification that NJP is being considered;
  • a description of the alleged offenses;
  • a summary of the evidence upon which the allegations are based;
  • notification of any rights the accused has.

Except for individuals attached to or embarked on a vessel, service members have the right to refuse nonjudicial punishment. However refusal of NJP will normally not result in the dismissal of charges, in fact a commanding officer can still refer the charges to a court-martial.

An accused has the right to a personal appearance before the officer imposing punishment. During this appearance, the accused has the right against self-incrimination, the right to be accompanied by a spokesperson, the right to be informed of the evidence against him or her, the right to examine the evidence against him or her, the right to present matters on his or her own behalf, and to have the proceedings open to the public.

An accused may waive a personal appearance, if agreeable to the officer imposing punishment, and submit written matters for consideration by the imposition authority.

The accused may appeal the imposition of nonjudicial punishment on the grounds that it is unjust or disproportionate to the offense. The appeal must be in writing and forwarded to the next superior authority via the officer who imposed punishment.

The appeal must be referred to a judge advocate (JAG) for consideration and advice before the authority who is to act on it may make any decision.

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