Located in Vernon Parish, Louisiana, Fort Polk has served as an Army installation continuously since 1941. With more than 10,000 troops stationed at Fort Polk at any given time, there is a steady stream of disciplinary proceedings initiated on base.
Types of Military Justice at Fort Polk
There are two common types of military justice you may face while serving at Fort Polk: nonjudicial punishment (NJP) and court-martial proceedings.
Nonjudicial Punishment at Fort Polk
Nonjudicial punishment, commonly referred to as Article 15 in the U.S. Army, is a form of disciplinary hearing that is not a formal criminal proceeding. While an unfavorable result will not result in a conviction on your criminal record, it is crucial to understand that the potential consequences are still severe. In many cases, an Article 15 can ultimately lead to an involuntary discharge.
Before an NJP is commenced, you will have the opportunity to reject an Article 15 and instead demand a trial by court-martial. While a court-martial may carry a potential criminal conviction and stiffer penalties, there are also some advantages to rejecting an NJP. The choice is an important one, and you should only make it after receiving advice from experienced civilian defense counsel. Attorney Patrick J. McLain has extensive experience with Army Article 15 proceedings; call today to learn how we can help.
Even if the Article 15 proceeding doesn't go your way, you will have an opportunity to appeal the decision up the chain of command. However, the only two grounds available for an appeal are:
- an unjust outcome; or
- disproportionate punishment.
Court-Martial at Fort Polk
Unlike an NJP, a court-martial is a formal criminal proceeding meaning it will result in a conviction on your criminal record. Any violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice can result in a trial by court-martial. As with an Article 15, you have the right to appeal a court-martial conviction.
There are two appellate courts that hear all Army court-martial appeals:
- the Army Court of Criminal Appeals; and
- the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.
You have the same right to an attorney at the appellate level as you do at trial. Discuss your case with an experienced military defense lawyer to learn about your options.
Common Offenses at Fort Polk
While you can be brought up on an NJP or trial by court-martial for any violation of the UCMJ, some of the most common violations are listed below.
Common NJP Offenses
- Unauthorized absence (AWOL)
- Drunk on duty
- Violation of orders
- Destroying government property
Common Court-Martial Offenses
The penalties for an adverse ruling for either an NJP or a court-martial are severe. For an Article 15, common penalties include:
- Loss of pay
- Extra duties
- Loss of rank.
In addition to these penalties, a conviction at trial by court-martial can also lead to incarceration or a punitive discharge. And depending on the specifics of the case, either type of conviction could lead to an administrative separation proceeding.
Your Right to Civilian Defense Counsel
If you are expecting to face military discipline at Fort Polk, do not wait until you have been notified of the charges to obtain an attorney. To discuss your case with a retired Marine Corps military judge, contact Attorney Patrick J. McLain today.