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What is non-judicial punishment?

A Virginia service member who allegedly commits a felony may be subject to criminal conviction as well as court-martial procedures from their branch of the military. A court-martial is a serious process through which a service member may be dishonorably discharged from their branch of service and may, in the future, be denied access to veterans' benefits that they otherwise could have received but for the circumstances of their release from service.

Not all infractions allegedly committed by service members are felonies, let alone actual crimes. From time to time service members may be accused by their commanding officers of failing to follow orders, engaging in disrespectful behavior or breaking minor traffic laws. When these alleged incidents arise, the court-marital process is not an appropriate venue for review. In these cases a service member may be subjected to the non-judicial punishment process.

Non-judicial punishment is carried out through an administrative process led by the service member's commanding officer. The process can involve an investigation by the commanding officer into the facts of the alleged infraction, a hearing with the service member to evaluate the situation and the imposition of a punishment for the service member's alleged conduct. The non-judicial punishment process is in part codified in Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

If a service member is found guilty of committing an infraction through the non-judicial punishment process, they may receive a sanction that alters their responsibilities and opportunities in their branch of government. Infractions on a service member's record can show poorly when they wish to advance in their military careers and as such some services members who are facing non-judicial punishments choose to discuss their options with lawyers to practice military law.

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