Military commands have administrative power to exercise nonjudicial punishment to deal with minor violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (“UCMJ”). Nonjudical punishment or Article 15 proceedings can have serious implications in your life and military career. Offered nonjudicial punishment? You need experienced military defense counsel to ensure your rights are protected and that you understand the implications of the process you are facing.

Article 15 of UCMJ, “Article 15,” “Captain’s Mast,” or “NJP” are the most common names for this process in the different service branches. A commander will “offer” an Article 15 to a service member when it is believed the service member has committed one or more offense under the UCMJ. Generally, but not always, the service member has the right to refuse an Article 15. However, a refusal may result in trial by court-martial. Additionally, service members have the right to seek military defense counsel prior to making an election.

Accepting an Article 15 is not an admission of guilty. It means the service member elects to allow the commander to decide the facts, outcome, and punishment, if any in the offense. The commander must listen to your witnesses, evidence (police reports, photographs, statements, etc.) and other material. The commander must consider the case you present in determining, if you are guilty and if so, whether you should be punished and if so, how. You are entitled to have a spokesperson speak on your behalf. The right to have military defense counsel present during the proceeding is service dependent. Either way, you are entitled to have experienced military defense counsel assist you in gathering, preparing, and presenting your evidence and witnesses prior to the Article 15 before your commander.

After the evidence is presented, the commander will determine guilty as to all offenses. The Article 15 is terminated, if the commander finds you not guilty. The commander will determine punishment, if it is determined you committed any offense charged. You are entitled to present mitigating and extenuating evidence to the commander before the punishment is imposed. Mitigation has the potential to lessen punishment due to your personal situation, record, heroism, and character of service. Extenuation explains the events surrounding the offense(s) to reduce your culpability.

Potential Punishment at Article 15

The maximum potential punishment under Article 15 UCMJ for an enlisted service member is as follows:

Field Grade Article 15 (Imposed by a Major/Lieutenant Commander or higher)

  • Restriction: 60 days, or if combined with extra duty, 45 days
  • Extra duty: 45 days
  • Forfeiture of pay: ½ of basic pay for 2 months
  • Reduction in Grade: E-4 or below may be reduced to E-1; E-5 and E-6 may be reduced one pay grade if the officer imposing the punishment has the authority to promote to E-5 and E-6. Reduction for E-7 and above varies depending upon service.

Company Grade Article 15 (Given by Captain (O-3) or Lieutenant)

  • Restriction: 14 days
  • Extra duty:14 days
  • Forfeiture of pay: 7 days basic pay
  • Reduction in Grade: E-4 or below may be reduced one grade. No reduction for E-5 or above.

The above listed punishments are general guidelines. Services vary on enforcement and commanders often have limitations placed on them in imposition of punishment.

Additionally, punishment can be suspended, meaning a commander can elect to not impose a punishment, but instead wait for a period of time and observe your conduct. Upon successful completion of the period of suspension, the punishment is dismissed! Unsuspended punishment is immediately imposed; however, an Article 15 determination may be appealed to the next higher commander within five (5) days of imposition of the punishment. This is a hard rule, which commander can use to dismiss an appeal as untimely.

Subsequent to completion of an Article 15 adverse administrative actions, which are service driven, can take place: Unfavorable Information File; Performance/Restricted OPMF; Performance reports, i.e. OER/NCOER, FLAGs, and others.

Refusal to be subjected to an Article 15 is a serious decision, which can result in implementation of a court-martial. This decision should not be taken lightly, cannot be revoked, and requires the assistance of competent military defense counsel. Court-Martial proceedings, whether: Summary Court-Martial; Special Court-Martial; or General Court-Martial are comparable to federal criminal trial and may be considered a federal criminal conviction.  Prior to deciding to accept or “turn down” an Article 15 contact CANNON & ASSOCIATES, PLLC for a free consultation on your case.


John Cannon, owner of CANNON & ASSOCIATES, PLLC, is a JAG attorney and has experience defending and prosecuting a multitude of military criminal cases and investigations. John has been honored by being identified as a Top 40 under 40 in Criminal Defense by the National Trial Lawyers Association. John has the experience and will bring it to bear in your case. Additionally, he has an outstanding record of reaching the best possible outcome for hundreds of clients accused of the wide variety of military charges, evidenced by receiving the highest possible AVVO rating – 10 (superb). Contact CANNON & ASSOCIATES to protect your freedom, your future, and your story. You may send an email inquiry, complete the contact form on the website, or call at 1(405) 657-2323.

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