Non-Judicial Punishment - Marines
Non- judicial punishment, also known as Office Hours in the Marines, is
a disciplinary action authorized by Article 15 of the UCMJ (Uniform Code
of Military Justice). While this does not constitute a criminal conviction,
a permanent record may be left on the service record of the marine, depending
on the level at which punishment is authorized and imposed. In addition
to Part V of the Manual for Courts Martial, these non- judicial punishments
for Marines are covered by the service branch's regulations. One important
aspect to note with NJP is that the accused is protected legally to a
far greater extent than when he is facing non- punitive measures.
Who can impose non- judicial punishment in the Marine Corps?
In the Marine Corps (as well as the Navy), non- judicial punishments can
be imposed by an Officer in Charge (OIC). This term refers to the officer
who has been designated as such by the flag officer who also wields the
authority to carry out court martial procedures at that specific command.
It is noteworthy that it is not the mere designation of Officer in Charge
that authorizes NJP imposing powers.
When can non- judicial punishment be imposed?
Non- judicial punishment is a tool that higher officials wield to ensure
that discipline and order are maintained in their command unit. Typically,
minor offenses such as failure to follow traffic laws, sleeping while
on duty or minor deviation from established regulations, are addressed
through the imposition of such punishment. Part IV of the Manual for Court
Martial outlines what offenses may be described in this way.
However, one must understand that the OIC may resort to NJP only if he
believes that non -punitive measures will not suffice to make the accused
understand the gravity of his offense or prevent the recurrence of such
an offense. The commanding officer or OIC who is authorized to impose
NJP takes a discretionary call on whether the accused has committed the
offense and what kind of punishment he should be given.
Several factors are taken into consideration when determining if the offense is minor:
- What is the nature of the offense
- What are the prevailing circumstances at the time the offense was committed
- The age, experience, rank, record and designation of the accused
Before imposing NJP, the OIC will also consider the consequences if the
same offense is taken up at a court martial proceeding. In general, when
the OIC believes that the offense does not warrant the permanent blemish
on the record that a court martial will result in, he may opt for NJP
instead provided the offense is minor enough.
What are the rights of the accused facing NJP?
To ensure that unjust and unfair imposition of non- judicial punishment
is not condoned, the UCMJ also outlines the rights of the accused who
is facing such action. The OIC has to ensure that the Marine is informed
of the intent to initiate NJP proceedings against him, explain the reasons
and also inform him of the evidence that indicates he has committed an offense.
The accused Marine has the right to refuse the punishment (although this
does not mean that the accusation is dropped) and opt for a court martial
procedure. He can opt to be present before the OIC determining the NJP
and ask to examine the evidence that is being used to establish that he
committed the offense. If any witnesses are being called to prove the
offense, he can confront them as well. He can have witnesses called in
his defense as well.
A spokesperson can accompany him and speak on his behalf to present his
defense. The Marine can also explain why he committed the offense, if
extenuating circumstances forced him to commit the act. He can also present
facts to show why the punishment should be nullified or reduced owing
to special circumstances. The OIC is duty bound to consider any and all
information given by the accused and base his final decision on all of
What punishments can be given under Article 15 of UCMJ?
The OIC can impose different kinds of non- judicial punishment on the Marine
depending on the nature and severity of the offense. It can range from
confinement to quarters (max 30 days), restriction to specific limits
(max 60 days), forfeiture of pay, extra duty, correctional custody, pay
grade reduction or official reprimands.