The difference between nonjudicial punishment and court-martial involves multiple factors that include who is going to be the decision maker to decide if that person has been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and also what the particular punishments are, and further, what are the possible consequences. Understanding that punishment and consequences can be different. When it comes to non-judicial punishment, you are going to be facing not more than rank reduction, some extra duty, and some forfeiture of pay in terms of the punishment, essentially your time and your money. When you’re facing court-martial, court-martial can take time, money, rank, all of those things, but they can also confine you and they can also separate you from the military with a punitive discharge, meaning a discharge that is intended to punish you. Known as either a bad conduct discharge or a dishonorable discharge depending upon the level of court-martial and the particular charges that you’re facing. A person has the right to refuse nonjudicial punishment and to demand trial by court-martial. And in all but one very rare instance, that has to be honored.
The only time that a demand for court martial does not have to be honored by that member’s command is if that person is on float with a ship, and in that instance, captain’s mast cannot be turned down and it has to be accepted at that level of disposition. In the event that you are considering turning down nonjudicial punishment and demanding trial by court-martial, it’s imperative that you speak with an attorney about that decision, not only because of the potential for that federal conviction, but also because of the consequences that there can be long lasting to both your career and to your family.
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