Thursday, July 13, 2023

States and the Right to "Turn Down" Nonjudicial Punishment

Article 15(a) of the UCMJ permits U.S. military members facing nonjudicial punishment (NJP) to turn down the punishment and instead "demand[] trial by court-martial." This right applies unless the member is attached to or embarked on a vessel. 

U.S. states and territories each have their own codes of military justice. All authorize NJP. But interestingly, when it comes to the "turn down" right they are almost evenly split: 28 permit military members to turn down NJP, 26 do not (meaning that NJP is binding).

The 28 states and territories that follow the DoD on permitting NJP turn-downs: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Guam, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Washington, and West Virginia.

The 26 states and territories where NJP is binding: Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

There are several reasons why nearly half of the U.S. jurisdictions do not follow the UCMJ, which is often the default template for states when crafting their own codes of military justice. First, some states may not conduct courts-martial, or can only convene them with great difficulty and expense. Military officials would lose credibility, and offenders gain sway, if the military's bluff is called when a member exercises the turn down right and the military is forced to back down. Second, many states offer other avenues of relief for military members who perceive they were treated unfairly in NJP, including petitions to the governor. Finally, several states may have decided that matters that were already deemed to be "minor offenses" suitable for NJP would be a waste of judicial resources for full-fledged court-martial, which are most suited for the adjudication of major offenses.

1 comment:

  1. Frank Rosenblatt here. Below are the code provisions. Thanks to Sree Maha Vedala for her excellent research assistance.

    States that follow the UCMJ nonjudicial punishment provision (10 U.S.C. § 815(a)) and permit NJP turn down:

    ALA.CODE § 31-2A-15(h) (1975), ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. § 26-1015(A) (2017), ARK. CODE ANN. § 12-64-301(c) (2019), CAL. MIL. & VET. CODE § 102 (West 2016), CONN. GEN. STAT.
    ANN. § 27-154(a) (West 1991), DEL. CODE ANN. tit. 20, § 163 (West 2017), D.C. CODE ANN. § 49-804 (West 1981), GUAM CODE ANN. § 63715(b) (2022), IDAHO CODE ANN. § 46-1102 (West 2019), IOWA CODE ANN. § 29B.14(1) (West 1989), KAN. STAT. ANN. § 48-2301(f) (West 2015), KY. REV. STAT. ANN. § 35.070(6) (West 2016), LA. STAT. ANN. § 29:115(A) (West 2019), MD. CODE ANN., PUB. SAFETY § 13A-301(f)(1-3) (West 2023), MASS. GEN. LAWS ANN. ch. 33A, Art. 15(f) (West 2019), MINN. STAT. ANN. § 192A.0851(f) (West 2013), MONT. CODE ANN. §
    10-1-104(2) (West 2021), N.J. STAT. ANN. § 38A:1-6 (West 2023), N.M. STAT. ANN. § 20-12-11 (West 1978), OKLA. STAT. ANN. tit. 44, § 815(I) (West 2021), P.R. LAWS ANN. tit. 25, § 2401
    (1976), S.C. CODE ANN. § 25-1-2520(1) (2011), S.D. CODIFIED LAWS § 33-10-55 (2012), UTAH CODE ANN. § 39A-5-302(2)(a) (West 2022), VT. STAT. ANN. tit. 20, § 1156 (West 2021), V.I.
    CODE ANN. tit. 23, § 1551 (1973), WASH. REV. CODE ANN. § 38.38.132(1) (West 2009), and W. VA. CODE ANN. § 15-1E-15(f) (West 2010).

    Code provisions of states and territories that do not permit NJP turn down:

    ALASKA STAT. § 26.05.500(a) (2016), COLO. REV. STAT. ANN. § 28-3.1-114(5) (West 2018), FLA. STAT. ANN. § 250.35(13)(d) (West 2021), GA. CODE ANN. § 38-2-1015(l) (West 2016),
    HAW. REV. STAT. ANN. § 124B-21(f) (West 2023), ILL. ADMIN. CODE tit. 95, § 400.1205 (2023), IND. CODE. ANN. § 10-16-9-6 (West 2023), ME. REV. STAT. ANN. tit. 37-B, § 415-A(3) (West
    2013), MICH. COMP. LAWS ANN. § 32.1015(7) (West 2005), MISS. CODE ANN. § 33-13-31(5) (West 2019), MO. ANN. STAT. § 40.043(4) (West 1991), NEB. REV. STAT. ANN. § 55-416(5)
    (West 2016), NEV. REV. STAT. ANN. § 412.2879 (West 2019), N.H. REV. STAT. ANN. § 110-B:40 (2009), N.Y. MIL. LAW § 130.15(d) (McKinney 1988), N.C. GEN. STAT. ANN. § 127A-51 (West 2011), N.D. CENT. CODE § 37-01-03 (West 2021), OHIO REV. CODE ANN. § 5924.15(F) (West 2012), OR. REV. STAT. ANN. §§ 396.015-399.290 (West 1961), 51 PA. STAT. AND CONS. STAT. ANN. § 5301(h) (West 2023), R.I. GEN. LAWS ANN. § 30-13-15(e) (West 1962), TENN. CODE ANN. §§ 58–1–101-119 (West 1970), TEX. GOV’T CODE ANN. § 432.015(g) (West 2011), VA. CODE ANN. § 44-40.01 (West 2015), WIS. STAT. ANN. § 322.015(9) (West 2010), and WYO. STAT. ANN. § 19-12-110 (West 2021).


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