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What Service Members Need to Know About Non-Judicial Punishment

Military Law

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Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice Article 15, a Commander or Commanding Officer may give Non-Judicial Punishment to service members to maintain good order and discipline.  Article 15 is known by different names depending on the branch of the service. In the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard, Article 15 is known as Captain’s Mast and the U.S. Marine Corps Article 15 is known as Office Hours. In the Army and the Air Force, it is known as Article 15. Article 15 is a hearing held by the Commander or Commanding Officer to determine if there is sufficient evidence to conclude that the service member committed a minor offense under the UCMJ. If the Commanding Officer determines that a minor offense was committed by the service member, the Commanding Officer may give the service member non-judicial punishment.

According to Article 15, only minor offenses may be disposed of at an Article 15 hearing. The Commander or Commanding Officer has discretion to determine if the offense is minor. However, receipt of non-judicial punishment is not a bar to referral of the same offense to a Court-Martial.

So what are a service member’s rights at an Article 15 Hearing?

In any case, receipt of Non-Judicial punishment can have a major negative impact on any service member’s career. The significance of the effect on a service member’s career will depend on the service member’s rank, age, Military Occupational Specialty, years of service, and branch. Also, what evidence is presented plays a crucial role in whether or not a service member will face punishment, and if so, to what extent. For example, choosing a key witness who can testify on the service member’s character that they did not commit the charged offense, or if they did, showing they are actively seeking some sort of rehabilitation are two of the many different ways a service member can mitigate their Command’s concern. In the end, it is important that any service member facing an Article 15 hearing know what their rights are so they can have the best shot at saving their reputation and military career.

Thomas P. Setser, a Senior Associate in Tully Rinckey PLLC’s Rochester office, possesses extensive courtroom experience in all matters of litigation, having served the last 19 years as a military defense counsel, civilian counsel and Assistant District Attorney. Thomas has reviewed and provided advice on countless investigations for referral to Article 15 (Captain’s Mast or Office Hours), Courts-Martial, and administrative separation matters. He can be reached at or at (585)-492-4700.


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