When to refuse non-judicial punishment (NJP / Article 15) and demand trial by court-martial

mcm-2012 120Except in the case of a service member attached to or embarked in a vessel (normally Sailors assigned to ships or Marines/Sailors embarked on a ship for a deployment), the member can refuse non-judicial punishment (NJP) under Article 15, UCMJ and demand trial by court-martial.  This is a very important decision for any service member who is notified that his/her commander is considering imposing NJP because a single NJP in today’s down-sizing and zero-tolerance environment often will be career ending.

A special or general court-martial conviction is a federal conviction and can also have long term impacts on future career opportunities and, depending on the sentence, the ability to obtain certain veterans’ benefits.  The potential punishments at a special and general court-martial are also significantly greater than the maximum punishments at NJP.

On the other hand, courts-martial are governed by strict rules of procedure and evidence which often is to the benefit of an accused, and the accused has the right to be represented by a lawyer.  A military judge will preside over the court-martial, ensuring the court is fair and that only legally admissible evidence and testimony is admitted.  The member also has the right to the military’s equivalent of a jury.  For Navy/Marine Corps members, there is also a higher burden of proof at court-martial – it’s proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the highest burden of proof under the law.

Finally, it’s important to remember that a “demand for trial by court-martial” does not necessarily mean the case will be sent to a court-martial by the commander.  The commander can pursue other administrative actions, a court-martial, or nothing at all.  The demand, however, means that the commander cannot impose NJP.

Before a member demands trial by court-martial, he or she needs to consider the following factors:

What is the strength of the evidence against me for each alleged charge?

Are there admissibility rules that would exclude evidence at trial, such as a violation of rights under Article 31b, UCMJ (failure to give appropriate rights warnings)?

Is there any additional misconduct that can be added if the case is forwarded for court-martial?  A demand for court-martial does not limit the government from pursing only the charges that were proffered to be handled at NJP.

How will a NJP impact my career and future?  How will a court-martial conviction impact my career and future?

What is the likely punishment if I am found guilty at NJP by my commander?  How about at court-martial?

How likely is the command to court-martial me vice pursuing other options such as administrative separation?

Is my commander going to be fair to me at NJP?

Am I willing/can I wait 3-6 months for a trial by court-martial?

These are just some of the considerations that should be discussed with a military law attorney prior to making this important decision.  Contact Korody Law, P.A. at 904.383.7261 for a free case evaluation.  Worldwide representation of military personnel.

Korody Law, P.A. 118 W. Adams Street, Suite 500, Jacksonville, FL 32202 - (904) 383-7261

Top Rated Jacksonville FL Lawyer Patrick Korody handles federal, state, and military criminal defense cases. Court-martial, security clearance revocation, security clearance denied, security clearance suspended. Jacksonville Florida Mayport Kings Bay NAS Jacksonville NAS JAX Naval Station Mayport Patrick Air Force Base Charleston Naval Weapons Station NAS Key West NAS Pensacola NAS Whiting Field Criminal Defense Lawyer. Top Rated Criminal Defense Attorney in Jacksonville, Florida. Federal criminal defense lawyer for drug charges fraud charges firearm charges money laundering charges. Former JAG lawyer provides services to Navy Air Force Marine Corps Army military members. Court-Martial Court Martial Courtmartial adsep boi security clearance revoked security clearance suspended. Military member DUI in Jacksonville, FL. Military sexual assault defense lawyer: sexual contact, rape, indecent assault, child pornography possession. Under investigation by NCIS? NJP appeals. Administrative Separation Boards. Boards of Inquiry. Military trial attorney. Civilian counsel for military members. Merchant Mariner Defense Lawyer. Offices located in Jacksonville, Florida.