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Understanding non-judicial punishments and service member rights

Non-judicial punishments in the military are referred to under Article 15. Non-judicial punishments refer to when commanding officers have the ability to administratively discipline service members for minor offenses. Depending on what branch of the military the service member is in, either a commanding officer or officer in charge is able to carry out a non-judicial punishment under military law.

Familiarity with military law is important for any service member. During a non-judicial punishment procedure, a commanding officer or officer in charge is able to make an inquiry into the facts surrounding an alleged minor offenses a service member under that person's command is accused of committing; afford the accused service member a hearing as to the offense; and is able to dispose of the charges by dismissing them, impose punishment under Article 15 or refer the case for court martial.

What is considered a minor offense, and thus subject to a non-judicial proceeding, essentially rests with the discretion of the commanding officer or officer in charge. Punishment under a non-judicial proceeding can vary widely but may include restriction to specified limits but not for greater than 60 days; arrest in quarters but not for greater than 30 days; forfeiture of pay which is also subject to certain limits; and admonition or reprimand. Because penalties under a non-judicial proceeding vary according to the rank of the accused service member and of the officer imposing the punishment, additional penalties and consequences, such as those for enlisted personnel, may also apply.

It is also important to note that an accused service member can demand a trial by court martial to avoid an Article 15 proceeding and that the accused service member also has the right to appeal a non-judicial punishment on the grounds it is unjust or disproportionate to the offense. Keep in mind, a non-judicial punishment does not preclude a later court martial for the same offense. Because of the serious nature of Article 15 proceedings, and the particularly complex area of military law they inhabit, it is useful for accused service members to have trained guidance and a solid understanding of the sometimes confusing process and their options.

Source: Military.findlaw.com, "What is Non-Judicial Punishment?" Accessed March 29, 2018

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