Written by attorney Matthew Scott James

Military Defense: Nonjudicial Punishments and Article 15s

An Article 15 is nonjudicial punishment (NJP). The term “Article 15″ comes from the fact that Article 15 of the UCMJ gives commanders the power to offer nonjudicial punishment. An Article 15 or NJP is a choice of forum. You have the right to turn down the offer and demand trial by court-martial. You also have the right to accept the Article 15 and present your case to your commander.

NJPs are called “nonjudicial punishment" because they don’t impact your criminal record. However, NJPs can cost you your rank, money, additional duty time and leave a permanent mark on your military record. Your NJP may appear on your evaluation or performance report and cost you a promotion. In addition, a nonjudicial punishment may, by itself or with other paperwork, lead to your separation from the military.

It is a little known fact that if you are within a few years of retirement, losing rank can cause you to retire at the demoted rank and take away your High-3 retirement calculation. This can end up costing you tens of thousands of dollars in retirement income over the course of your life.

Despite the stakes, it is not uncommon for your free Government lawyer to spend very little time on Article 15s and NJPs. If you are an officer, a senior NCO, or if you are considering turning down your Article 15 to demand trial by court-martial, then you may want to consider talking to a civilian military defense lawyer. As a civilian military defense lawyer, I can give your Article 15 or NJP the time and attention it needs. I can help you investigate your case, assemble a strong package, and present your best case possible. However, your time to respond is limited. If you are going to hire a civilian military defense lawyer, you need to act quickly.

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