Types of Military Punishments


When a member of the United States Armed Forces commits a crime or acts against orders, the military disciplines personnel through different types of punishments. The punishment that the military chooses depends on the nature and severity of the offense committed.

Courts-Martial Punishment

  • The most serious type of military punishment is a general court-martial that involves a judge, defense lawyer, prosecutor and a jury of at least five officers, although the accused can request that the jury consist of one-third enlisted members. Sentences include death, long periods of confinement, dishonorable discharge for the enlisted, dismissal for officers and a variety of other punishments. A level below the general court-martial are special courts-martial that limit punishment to confinement for one year, docking two-thirds of basic pay and lesser sentences. Summary courts-martial provide quick resolutions to minor infractions with penalties less severe than those of general and special courts-martial.

Article 15 Punishments

  • Non-judicial punishments in the military take place through Article 15, which is a disciplinary tool under the Uniform Code of Military Justice that enables commanders to instill discipline and maintain order among the ranks. Instead of a full-blown trial, the commander presents evidence of an infraction and decides on a punishment according to Article 15 limits. Maximum punishments under Article 15 are 60 days of restriction, 45 days of extra duty, two levels of rank reduction and a salary reduction of up to half of basic military monthly pay for as long as two months. Non-judicial punishments and proceedings do not appear on permanent civilian records, but they do appear in a soldier's military personnel file and can affect his future with respect to promotions and special assignments within the military.

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