The difference between non-judicial punishment and court-martial involves multiple factors. This includes who is going to be the decision-maker to decide if that person has been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, what the particular punishments are, and what are the possible consequences. Understand that “punishment” and “consequences” can be different.
When it comes to non-judicial punishment you’re 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 are facing court-martial, it may cost time, money, rank, all of those things. But they can also confine you, or they can separate you from the military with a punitive discharge. This is a discharge intended to punish you, known as either a Bad Conduct Discharge, or a Dishonorable Discharge, depending on the level of court-martial and the particular charges you are facing.
A person has the right to refuse non-judicial punishment and demand a 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. It has to be accepted at that level of disposition.
In the event that you are considering turning down non-judicial punishment and demanding trial by court-martial, it’s imperative that you speak with an attorney about that decision. Not only consider the potential of a felony federal conviction, but also the consequences that will impact your career and your family.
For questions about courts-martial and non-judicial punishment, contact the Law Office of Jocelyn C. Stewart at 1-888-252-0927.