Non-Judicial Punishment Appeals
If your Commanding Officer imposes punishment against you at non-judicial punishment (“NJP”) and you believe the punishment is “unjust” or “disproportionate” to the offense, then you have the right to appeal the non-judicial punishment to the next highest authority.
Time to Submit NJP Appeal
NJP appeals must be submitted in writing within five calendar days of the imposition of NJP, or the right to appeal shall be waived in the absence of good cause shown. The appeal period begins to run from the date of the imposition of NJP, even though any part or all of the punishment imposed is suspended.
If it appears good cause exists which would make it difficult to prepare and submit the appeal within the 5 calendar day period, then the accused should immediately advise the Commanding Officer who imposed the punishment of the perceived problems and request an appropriate extension of time. The Commanding Officer imposing NJP shall determine whether good cause exists and inform the accused whether an extension of time will be granted.
Grounds for Appealing NJP
There are only two grounds for appealing NJP – the punishment imposed was “unjust” or the punishment imposed was “disproportionate” to the offense.
“Unjust” punishment exists when the evidence is insufficient to prove the accused committed the offense; when the statute of limitations prohibits lawful punishment; or when any other fact, including a denial of substantial rights, calls into question the validity of the punishment imposed.
“Disproportionate” punishment exists when the punishment is too severe for the offense committed. Although the punishment imposed may be legal, it may be too severe based upon the nature of the offense; the absence of aggravating circumstances; the presence of mitigating factors; and the servicemember’s prior record.
Request for Stay of Restraint or Extra Duties
A servicemember who is appealing NJP appealed may be required to undergo any restraint punishment or extra duties imposed while the appeal is pending. However, if the appeal authority has not taken action on the appeal within five calendar days after the written appeal has been submitted, and if the accused has so requested, any unexecuted punishment involving restraint or extra duties must be stayed until action on the appeal is taken.
Commanding Officer’s Endorsement
A Commanding Officer should not refuse to forward an appeal to the reviewing authority because of administrative errors in the appeal. Rather, the Commanding Officer should correct any such errors in the Commanding Officer’s endorsement.
Likewise, a Commanding Officer who imposed the punishment should not, by endorsement, seek to “defend” against the allegations of the appeal but should explain the rationalization of the evidence. For example, the officer may have chosen to believe one witness’ account over another witness. The Commanding Officer can include in his endorsement any facts relevant to the case as an aid to the reviewing authority. It is improper for the Commanding Officer to state his opinions of the servicemember’s character in the endorsement. Finally, any errors made in the decision to impose NJP or in the amount of punishment imposed should be corrected by the Commanding Officer and the corrective action noted in the forwarding endorsement. It is important to note that even though corrective action is taken, the appeal must still be forwarded to the review authority.