Denver, CO Martial Law Blog

Friday, October 12, 2018

What is Non-Judicial Punishment?

In the United States military, non-judicial punishment is a form of military justice that allows commanders to discipline troops without a court-martial. Non-judicial punishment is known by different terms among the different branches of the military. For example, the Army and Air Force refer to such punishment as “Article 15,” the Marine Corps calls it "office hours,” and the Navy and Coast Guard call it “mast.” Non-judicial punishments may include:

  • Reprimand;
  • Rank reduction;
  • Correctional custody;
  • Loss of pay; and
  • Extra duty.
As opposed to judicial punishment, non-judicial punishment doesn’t constitute a criminal conviction. However, such punishment is often placed in the service record of the offending officer. Commanders have the ability to impose non-judicial punishment because no formal criminal proceeding is required to do so. And since no criminal proceeding is required to institute non-judicial punishment proceedings, such action does not result in a criminal record. In fact, evidence of non-judicial punishment is sometimes removed from an offending party’s military records. And while non-judicial punishment is intended to be imposed solely for minor disciplinary issues, commanders sometimes issue it to officers or other high-ranking military members to avoid more severe punishment for serious offenses.

Standard of Proof

Each branch of the military follows similar non-judicial punishment procedures. However, the standard of proof required to impose such punishment varies by branch. The Navy and Marines, for example, require clear and convincing evidence of an infraction prior to the imposition of non-judicial punishment. The Air Force and Army, on the other hand, employ a reasonable doubt standard before allowing such punishment to be imposed. However, it isn’t uncommon for commanders to initiate disciplinary action despite a lack of understanding of the standard required to be applied. Some commanders, for example, simply impose punishment based on evidence of a disciplinary issue. Due to such mistakes, it is important to seek the assistance of an attorney if faced with non-judicial punishment.

Right of Refusal

Non-judicial punishment can be refused. However, in order to do so, a service member facing such punishment must instead request trial by court-martial—a process that can result in severe consequences. Therefore, the decision to forgo non-judicial punishment in lieu of trial by court-martial should not be made without first obtaining legal representation.

Article 15 Attorneys

If you are facing disciplinary action of any kind, it’s important to seek experienced legal counsel as soon as possible. Our attorneys have years of experience defending service members facing a wide array of serious allegations. Combining years of trial experience on high profile cases, our experienced attorneys offer our military clients top-tier representation. Whether you are stationed in the United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Germany, Italy, Korea, Japan, or elsewhere, our experienced Denver attorneys are ready and willing to right for your rights regardless of your location. Please contact us for a free consultation as soon as possible.

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