Nonjudicial punishment (NJP) is a leadership tool providing military commanders a prompt and essential means of maintaining good order and discipline. NJP is permitted by Article 15, UCMJ (Section 815 of Title 10, United States Code) and is governed by Part V of the Manual for Courts-Martial and by service regulations. NJP proceedings may be known by different terms among the Services, such as "Article 15," "Office Hours," or "Captain's Mast," but the purpose of NJP, and for the most part its procedures, are common among the Services.
Prior to imposition of NJP, a service member must first be notified by the commander of the nature of the misconduct of which he or she is accused, of the evidence supporting the accusation, and of the commander's intent to impose NJP. The commander will then hold a hearing at which the member may be present. The member may also have a spokesperson attend the hearing, may present evidence to the commander, and may request that the commander hear from certain witnesses. The commander must consider any information offered during the hearing, and must be personally convinced that the member actually committed misconduct before imposing punishment.
The maximum permissible punishments depends on the rank of the accused and that of the officer conducting the hearing. Permissible punishments for officers can include forfeiture of pay (up to ½ of one month's pay per month for two months), restriction to base or to the ship (up to 60 days), arrest in quarters (up to 30 days), and a reprimand.
If the member considers the punishment to be unjust or to be disproportionate to the misconduct committed, he or she may appeal to higher authority. The appeal authority may set aside the punishment, decrease its severity, or deny the appeal, but may not increase the severity of the punishment.
Receipt of nonjudicial punishment does not constitute a criminal conviction.