Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) empowers a commanding officer to dispose of minor offenses at a nonjudicial administrative proceeding. Called in the different services by names like “Office Hours,” “Captain’s Mast,” “NJP,” and “Article 15,” this is a due process hearing wherein the commanding officer must determine whether you have committed an offense and if so, what sort of punishment should be authorized. Punishments include potential reduction in rank, loss of pay, restriction of liberty and assignment of extra duties.
The consequences of receiving punishment under Article 15 are twofold: first, there is the immediate consequence of the punishment delivered, which begins to be served immediately after the hearing is complete and the commanding officer makes the decision to punish; second, the punishment sets up potential administrative consequences, including adverse performance evaluations or fitness reports, adverse counseling entries, and potential actions to administratively separate you for the service.
Depending on your rank, job assignment, and deployment status, the negative consequences can continue to flow into all areas of your life, including prohibition of promotion and reenlistment, voiding of your Military Occupational Specialty, revocation of a security clearances, and removal from an upcoming operational deployment. These secondary consequences may have the effect of ending your service career.
You have Options
Before you decide to accept nonjudicial punishment, you have the right to consult with a military lawyer. This consultation generally focuses on your rights, the consequences of the exercise or failure to exercise these rights, and the answering of procedural related questions. In the Marine Corps and Navy, these counseling sessions are frequently handled by showing a room full of service members a DVD that explains the process, followed by a defense attorney answering general questions from the gathered service members, and then a brief private conservation with those who desire it. Rarely does this conversations delve into the specifics of the case, and service regulation in fact discourage the formation of an attorney client relationship.
This puts the service member in a real disadvantage. The consequences of the punishment can be long reaching and severe, and yet the decisions frequently are made with minimal information. The decisions permitted include:
In the case of more senior individuals, or in the case of service members who already have been in trouble, this may be the most critical set of decisions you make in your military career.
We Can Assist You In Your Decisions
Jeffrey Meeks and Bruce White have counseled thousands of Marines and Sailors in making these decisions. We have worked closely with these individuals in dealing with the aftermath of these choices, and have vigorously represented them as a result. Now is not the time to hesitate, or to act without adequate understanding and information.