Not a Criminal Proceeding.
A guilty finding at a non-judicial punishment should never be considered a ‘conviction’ because it was never meant to be a criminal proceeding. The purpose of non-judicial punishment is to correct minor deficiencies with service members in an expeditious manner and not to punish the military member in any lasting way.
What is NJP?
In the military justice system, non-judicial punishment (commonly referred to as NJP, Captain’s Mast, or Article 15) is an administrative proceeding utilized to adjudicate minor violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). As the name implies, non-judicial punishment is not considered a judicial proceeding and therefore does not result in a conviction.
Tool for Command.
Non-judicial punishment is a valuable tool for military officers because it grants them flexibility to quickly and easily address minor incidents of misconduct committed by a service member. At these proceedings, the service member is not entitled to a number of basic due process protections such as the right to legal counsel, a military panel (jury), or a qualified military judge. Further, as noted in the United States Sentencing Guidelines (USSG), only findings of guilt at special and general court martials are considered convictions for prior records score calculations.
Lesser Punishment than Courts Martial.
The maximum allowable punishments at a non-judicial punishment are less harsh than the allowable punishments at a summary court martial, special court martial, or general court martial, due in part to the lack of due process protections. A Field Grade non-judicial punishment, which is the most severe non-judicial punishment, can result in punishment in the form of multi-grade reduction in rank, forfeiture of half-pay for two months, forty-five days of extra duties, and sixty days of restricting the service member from any activities other than work duties, exercise, or worship.
Although non-judicial punishment is not considered a ‘conviction’, it can still have lasting effects on your military career and even result in an unfavorable discharge from the military. If you are facing NJP, you should contact the knowledgeable attorneys at Crisp and Associates Military Law immediately about how best to fight the charges.