I previously asked about the circumstances that allowed forgoing the "Prime Directive". The answer stated "All these people have violated the Prime Directive more than once: Kirk, Picard, Riker, Worf, Janeway, Tuvok, B'Elana." What is the penalty for violating it without Federation sanctioned justification?

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    The prime directive makes so little sense that almost no one has been punished, despite it being broken almost constantly. The whole concept of TNG is based on breaking the prime directive.
    – Myforwik
    Commented Feb 18, 2012 at 1:01

2 Answers 2


Well, it's considered to be a Court Martial offense.

Usually the threat / warning is "You will face a court martial!" or something to that effect; I don't remember hearing anything about the additional concern of punishment; apparently the Court Martial by itself was a significant enough threat.

A court martial could result in a wide variety of punishments, ranging from Demotion in Rank, to Incarceration, all the way to Execution, if the crime merited it. Usually, the presiding judge had guidelines, but fairly wide authority to make the punishment fit the crime. A Technical violation with no impact might result in demotion for 30 days; an egregious violation with the perpetrator showing no remorse and expressing an intent to repeat the action could result in imprisonment, or even execution. (An example would be General Order 7; violation could result in a court martial followed by an execution. See the TOS re-worked pilot 'The Menagerie'.) (By the advent of TNG, I believe capital punishment had been eliminated, so death was no longer on the table, in a court marshal.)

I believe the minimum punishment for violation of the Prime Directive was a Dishonorable Discharge, but I have no canon backup; just a vague memory of someone saying that in one of the series.

  • "Martial", as in "relating to war". Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 20:24
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    :) Yeah, well. I can't spell. :) I'm WAY too dependent on spellcheckers.. but homophones can defeat them, every time.
    – K-H-W
    Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 20:26
  • @KeithHWeston: it's funny, then, that the link you provided does spell it correctly... :-P
    – Martijn
    Commented Feb 18, 2012 at 11:21
  • @Martijn - Yeah, well.. Copy and paste is my friend... I just don't seem to have the brains to actually LOOK at what I paste sometimes :)
    – K-H-W
    Commented Feb 18, 2012 at 17:24

Based on that list, the minimum penalty is "Nothing". Maximum penalty was discussed by Keith.

Picard was once grilled by a notable Judge over his violating the Prime Directive, but it didn't go further than being yelled at by soon-to-be-disgraced Judge over matter unrelated to her main Inquiry that Picard was interfering with.

  • +1 for the Drumhead reference. (I added the links) Classic episode! McCarthyism hits TNG.
    – K-H-W
    Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 19:30
  • @KeithHWeston - while I appreciate the edits, having actually read original documents released from KGB archives talking about working with commies in USA back then, you're way off on your opinion of McCarthyism. If anything, HUAC and McCarthy (which BTW were two separate things) weren't thorough enough. Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 19:34
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    It seems to depend on justification after the fact, Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 19:51
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    Although I'd cheerfully discus McCarthy for hours (or pages), I should point out that my reference wasn't really to him, but the the term he spawned: From Wikipedia "the word McCarthyism has entered American speech as a general term for a variety of practices: aggressively questioning a person's patriotism, making poorly supported accusations, using accusations of disloyalty to pressure a person to adhere to conformist politics or to discredit an opponent, subverting civil rights in the name of national security, and the use of demagoguery are all often referred to as McCarthyism"
    – K-H-W
    Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 20:04

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