Non-Judicial Punishment (NJP) in the Military: An Overview

by : Michael Waddington

Non-judicial punishment (NJP) is a command leadership tool. It gives military commanders a quick means of maintaining good order and discipline. NJP is intended to efficiently correct misconduct at a relatively low level without the stigma of a federal conviction. NJP does not constitute a criminal conviction.

The majority of crimes that occur in the military are dealt with by using NJP. Before imposing NJP, the commander must notify the accused member of the charges and provide him or her with supporting evidence. The service member may then seek legal advice. The service member can choose to accept the NJP or refuse the NJP and demand a trial by courts martial.

It is crucial that a service member seek expert legal advice before the NJP proceedings. Turning down NJP and demanding a court martial should be done with extreme caution. Before turning down NJP, the accused must be fully advised of the serious, long-term consequences that may occur as a result of a court martial.

Punishments at NJP vary based on the rank of the accused. Generally, punishments include: reduction in rank (enlisted only), forfeiture of up to two-thirds of a month's pay per month for two months, restriction, extra duty, and a reprimand. The maximum punishment at NJP varies based on the rank of the officer imposing the punishment; the higher the rank, the greater the punishment.