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Article 15, Non-Judicial Punishment (NJP)

Article 15, commonly known as non-judicial punishment (NJP) or Captain’s Mast in the Navy, is a disciplinary tool allowing commanders to address misconduct without resorting to a court-martial.

Unlike formal court-martial proceedings, Article 15 provides a streamlined and less formal process for addressing disciplinary issues within the military.

The stated primary goal of Article 15 is to correct misconduct and maintain discipline within the ranks. It emphasizes corrective actions over punitive measures.

The Commanding Officer upholds military regulations. Service members who understand the consequences of violating these regulations are more likely to adhere to established norms.

While Article 15 is designed to be a commander’s tool to dispose of minor offenses, we are increasingly seeing serious allegations disposed of via Article 15. When this happens, the service member has the right to turn down Article 15 and demand a trial by court-martial—a high-risk, high-reward decision.

Just because the service member demands a court-martial, that doesn’t mean one will necessarily happen. It just shuts off the Article 15. The commander can then either choose to take the case to a court-martial or drop the case down to a lesser administrative action.

Often, turning down an Article 15 is the only chance the service member has at meaningful justice or protecting their career, particularly if they are falsely accused.

Service members faced with Article 15 should call an experienced Non-Judicial Punishment (NJP) lawyer at Military Law as soon as possible to discuss the options for handling a Non-Judicial Punishment (NJP) case.

We focus entirely on charges brought in the military justice system across all branches of the armed services worldwide. Call us at 800-235-3645 for a consultation.

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Article 15, Non-Judicial Punishment Guide

Why Choose Military Law to Defend an Article 15 Case

Article 15-Non-Judicial Punishment

Choosing Military Law to defend an Article 15 case offers several advantages. Military Law practitioners have focused knowledge and experience in the intricacies of military justice systems. We have a thorough understanding of the unique aspects of Article 15 proceedings.

Military Law attorneys comprehend the nuances of military culture, including rank structures, procedures, and the impact of disciplinary actions on your career. Our lawyers who focus on military law have extensive experience dealing with Article 15 cases, allowing us to anticipate challenges, build effective defenses, and navigate the specific procedures associated with disciplinary actions.

Military defense lawyers are dedicated to protecting your rights. We ensure due process is followed, preventing potential abuses and safeguarding your legal rights.

Tailoring defense strategies to the unique circumstances of each case, Military Law attorneys work to achieve the best possible outcome for the service member, taking into account your career goals and the nature of the alleged misconduct.

The experienced attorneys at Military Law are confident in negotiations with commanding officers. We strive to secure favorable outcomes for service members, whether it involves reducing the severity of punishment or exploring alternative resolutions.

Contact us today to discuss your case.

What Types of Military Defense Cases Does Military Law Handle?

Our Lawyers Can Be At Your Service Wherever You Need Us

Military Law advocates for U.S. military members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Space Force, wherever they may be located. In addition to communicating through traditional phone calls and emails, technology connects us to our clients worldwide through virtual meeting services and text messaging.

Our military defense attorneys are also prepared to travel to military courtrooms all over the world. We serve all active-duty service members in all U.S. military branches.

Call us at 800-235-3645 or fill out our online contact form to reach out to our legal team.

What is Article 15?

In the United States Armed Forces, non-judicial punishment is a form of military justice authorized by Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Its rules are further elaborated on in various branch policies as well as the Manual for Courts-Martial. NJP permits commanders to administratively discipline troops without a court-martial.

Punishment can range from reprimand to reduction in rank, correctional custody, loss of pay, extra duty, or restrictions depending on the rank of the imposing officer and receiving officer.

The receipt of non-judicial punishment does not constitute a criminal conviction (it is equivalent to a civil action) but is often placed in the service record of the individual.

Part V of the Manual for Courts-Martial and each service branch’s regulations govern the process for non-judicial punishment.

Article 15 in Different Service Branches

Article 15 is known by various names across military branches such as “Captain’s Mast” in the Navy, “Commander’s Non-Judicial Punishment” in the Air Force, and simply “Article 15” in the Army, Marines, and Coast Guard.

This highlights the tailored approach each branch of the service takes to address disciplinary matters.

While the essence remains corrective, these distinct names reflect the unique traditions and procedures within each branch, emphasizing the importance of maintaining discipline while adapting to individual branch dynamics.


In the Army, Article 15 is applied by Commanding Officers to address misconduct within their units. The process is designed to allow for prompt resolution of disciplinary matters.

Punishments under Article 15 in the Army may include extra duties, restriction, or forfeiture of pay. The severity of the punishment depends on the nature and gravity of the misconduct.


The Navy utilizes a system known as Captain’s Mast, where the ship’s Commanding Officer addresses disciplinary issues. Article 15 proceedings in the Navy emphasize correction and rehabilitation, aligning with the overall goal of maintaining a disciplined naval force.

The application of Article 15 in the Navy is guided by naval regulations, ensuring a consistent approach to addressing misconduct while considering the unique challenges of naval operations.

Air Force and Space Force

In the Air Force and Space Force, the equivalent of Article 15 is often referred to as Commander’s Non-Judicial Punishment. This process allows commanders to address disciplinary matters promptly and efficiently, emphasizing correction over punitive measures.

The application of Article 15 in the Air Force and Space Force focuses on maintaining operational readiness by swiftly resolving disciplinary issues within the unit, preventing disruptions to mission success.


The Marine Corps employs Article 15 to uphold unit discipline and cohesion. Commanding Officers have the authority to address misconduct promptly, according to the Marine Corps’ commitment to high standards of conduct.

Article 15 proceedings in the Marines are designed for quick resolution, aligning with the Marine Corps emphasis on agility and responsiveness in addressing disciplinary matters.

Coast Guard

The Coast Guard utilizes Article 15 to address disciplinary issues within its ranks. The process is aligned with the Coast Guard’s commitment to maintaining order and discipline in maritime operations.

Article 15 in the Coast Guard is applied per maritime regulations, ensuring that disciplinary actions are consistent with the unique challenges and requirements of Coast Guard operations.

Captain’s Mast (or Admiral’s Mast) and Office Hours

In the Navy, disciplinary proceedings are often conducted through Captain’s Mast (or Admiral’s Mast for higher-ranking officers). This is an administrative hearing where a ship’s Commanding Officer addresses alleged misconduct.

The process allows for a swift resolution of disciplinary matters, emphasizing correction and maintaining good order and discipline at sea.

Some Marine Corps units and certain Navy commands may use the term “Office Hours” to refer to similar disciplinary proceedings.

This process involves a Commanding Officer addressing misconduct directly with the service member in a less formal setting than a court-martial.

Differences Between Captain’s Mast and Office Hours

  • Authority Level: Captain’s Mast is typically conducted by the ship’s Commanding Officer (Captain) or a higher-ranking Admiral. Office Hours may be conducted by a unit’s Commanding Officer (such as in the Marines) and can vary in formality depending on the specific command.
  • Scope of Cases: Captain’s Mast in the Navy often deals with a broad range of disciplinary issues, from minor infractions to more serious offenses. Office Hours may focus on less severe misconduct within a specific unit or command.
  • Procedures and Formality: Captain’s Mast follows a more formal procedure, resembling a quasi-judicial hearing. Office Hours may be less formal, allowing for a more direct and immediate interaction between the Commanding Officer and the service member.
  • Potential Punishments: Punishments at Captain’s Mast can include various corrective measures, such as extra duties, restriction, or reduction in rank. Office Hours may result in similar corrective actions but are generally tailored to address the specific nature and severity of the misconduct within the unit’s context.

Common Misconceptions and Clarifications About Article 15

Myth: Article 15 is Equivalent to a Criminal Conviction

Clarification: Article 15 is an administrative disciplinary tool and does not result in a criminal conviction. It is not part of a service member’s civilian criminal record.

Myth: Acceptance of Article 15 is an Admission of Guilt

Clarification: Accepting Article 15 is a strategic decision and does not necessarily imply guilt. It may be a pragmatic choice to expedite the resolution process.

Myth: Article 15 Proceedings Lack Fairness

Clarification: Article 15 proceedings are designed to be fair and allow service members to present their side of the story. The process includes rights to notification, defense, and appeal.

How Might Accepting Article 15 Affect Your Career?

Accepting Article 15 can have potential repercussions on a service member’s career, including:

  • Official Reprimand: Acceptance of Article 15 entails an official reprimand on your record. This reprimand may be considered during future evaluations and promotions.
  • Negative Impact on Performance Reports: The disciplinary action and its details may be reflected in your performance reports, potentially affecting your overall assessment and career progression.
  • Limited Career Advancement: Some promotions and assignments may be contingent on your disciplinary record. Accepting Article 15 could limit opportunities for career advancement.
  • Reduced Security Clearance Eligibility: In cases where security clearances are necessary for certain assignments, an Article 15 on your record might affect eligibility, potentially limiting assignment options.
  • Public Record: Disciplinary actions, including Article 15 proceedings, may become part of your permanent record. This information could be accessible to future employers or other entities conducting background checks.
  • Perception by Peers and Superiors: The acceptance of Article 15 may influence how you are perceived by peers and superiors. It could impact your standing within the unit and affect your relationships with colleagues.
  • Potential Barriers in Special Assignments: Certain special assignments or roles may have specific eligibility criteria, and acceptance of Article 15 might disqualify you from consideration for these opportunities.

The extent of the impact can vary based on the severity of the misconduct, your overall record, and the specific policies of the military branch.

Seek legal counsel before making decisions regarding Article 15 to fully understand the potential consequences and explore the best course of action for your unique situation.

How Can an Experienced Military Defense Lawyer Help Navigate an Article 15 Case?

An experienced military defense lawyer can provide invaluable assistance in navigating an Article 15 case in several ways:

  • Understanding Rights and Options: A military defense lawyer ensures that you fully understand your rights and the options available during the Article 15 proceedings.
  • Legal Guidance: A lawyer experienced in military justice like our team at Military Law can offer legal guidance on whether to accept the Article 15, request a hearing, or pursue other legal avenues. They can provide insights into the potential consequences and benefits of each option.
  • Preparing a Defense: If you decide to contest the charges, your lawyer will assist in building a strong defense strategy. This may involve gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and presenting arguments to mitigate the impact of the alleged misconduct.
  • Negotiating with Commanders: A skilled military defense lawyer can engage in negotiations with the commanding officer to seek a more favorable resolution. This may involve advocating for lesser punishments or exploring alternatives to punitive measures.
  • Protecting Legal Rights: Your lawyer ensures that your legal rights are protected throughout the process, preventing any potential abuses or procedural errors.
  • Reviewing Evidence: A skilled military defense lawyer scrutinizes the evidence presented against you, looking for inconsistencies, inaccuracies, or violations of due process.
  • Appealing Decisions: If the outcome of the Article 15 is unfavorable, your lawyer can advise you on the possibility of appealing the decision, ensuring that your case is thoroughly reviewed.
  • Minimizing Career Impact: Your attorney works to minimize the impact of the Article 15 on your military career. This may involve negotiating for a more favorable characterization of the disciplinary action.
  • Providing Emotional Support: Facing disciplinary proceedings can be stressful. A military defense lawyer not only handles the legal aspects but also provides you with emotional support throughout the process.
  • Knowledge of Military Regulations: A lawyer experienced in military law is well-versed in the specific regulations governing the military justice system, ensuring that every aspect of the case is handled according to the applicable rules and procedures.

Engaging an experienced military defense lawyer from Military Law is crucial for navigating the complexities of an Article 15 case, safeguarding the service member’s rights, and working toward the best possible outcome.

Take Control of Your Defense – Contact Military Law Today

Facing an Article 15? Make informed decisions for your military career. Contact our experienced Military Law team today for personalized advice. We’re here to guide you through the process, clarify your rights, and help you navigate the complexities of Article 15 proceedings. Your future deserves the best defense.

Reach out now to ensure you’re equipped to make the choices that matter. Your career is important; let us stand by you.

Our Military Law attorneys handle cases across all branches of the military. This breadth of experience enables us to adapt strategies based on the unique regulations and procedures of each service branch.

Jeremy Snyder, NJP Attorney

Jeremy Snyder, Non-Judicial Punishment Lawyer

The military defense attorney at Military Law are committed to strategic advocacy, working to mitigate the impact of charges on your professional and personal life. We aim for the best possible outcome tailored to the individual circumstances of your case. Our experienced team is ready to stand with you, no matter where you are in the world.

Call our legal team at 800-235-3645 or fill out our online contact form.

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