How a DUI Affects Your Military Career

Military service members often spend much of their days operating vehicles, aircraft, and vessels. They are expected to control these machines responsibly and safely. Failure to do so could result in a criminal charge.

Drinking and driving—whether on base in a military craft or off base in a personal vehicle—is a violation of Article 111 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). This article dictates the legal proceedings and punishments for drunken or reckless operation of a vehicle, aircraft, or vessel. Such an offense could result in being charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI).

The military holds a zero-tolerance policy for drunk driving. If you are convicted of a DUI, this could have long-lasting effects on your military career and other aspects of your life. After all, service members must adhere to stricter requirements and face more severe, life-altering penalties than civilians charged with the same offense. The legal action you take now makes all the difference in the outcome of your case.

Effects of a DUI on Your Military Service Record

Drunk driving is illegal everywhere in the United States. You may face state or military prosecution, depending on whether the incident occurred on base or off.

A state DUI conviction for an incident that took place off base may result in administrative penalties from your commanding officer, starting at the time of your arrest or refusal to submit to a breath test. These may include:

  • General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand (GOMOR)
  • Corrective training
  • Referral to an alcohol abuse treatment program
  • Revocation of pass privileges

An active-duty service member charged with a DUI on a military installation will most likely face an Article 15 hearing or court martial. You may also face administrative penalties, including:

  • Automatic suspension of on-post driving privileges
  • Almost certain removal of security clearance status
  • Disciplinary demotion and reduction in pay
  • Disqualification from future promotions and reenlistment
  • Mandatory substance abuse treatment
  • Separation proceedings for second offenses within one year, presenting a high possibility of less-than-honorable or dishonorable discharge
  • Disputed entitlement to military pension and other benefits after leaving the service

Criminal Penalties for Getting a DUI

You will likely face criminal penalties following a DUI conviction as well. The exact punishments vary by state, your blood alcohol concentration (BAC), and other circumstances surrounding the incident. The most common consequences include:

  • Temporary driver’s license suspension
  • Fines
  • Jail time
  • Community service

In cases of higher BACs or repeat offenses, you may be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in your car for at least a year once your driving privileges have been restored. This breathalyzer device requires you to blow into it to prove your sobriety before the car will start.

Effects of a DUI on Your Life and Military Career

The significance of losing your license and having a DUI conviction on your record can be profound. Often, the terms of your sentence or probation interfere with your assigned duties. The results may include:

  • Inability to perform transportation duties due to having a suspended license
  • Various lifestyle changes resulting from not being able to drive
  • Inability to carry a firearm because of a DUI conviction
  • Interrupted deployment or training assignments caused by probation reporting requirements or alcohol education class schedules
  • Potential to be reassigned to a position you don’t like
  • Difficulty finding a civilian job with a permanent criminal record
  • Substantial increase in car insurance premiums
  • Potential travel restrictions to other countries

Defending Against DUI Charges in the Military

Service members in all branches of the military need a competent defense attorney’s assistance when facing DUI charges. Work with someone who understands the potential risks and consequences at play to ensure adequate representation during a pending court martial.

Remember, in both military and civilian courts, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Your legal counsel will help you formulate a defense against your DUI arrest. Here are some of the arguments your team might make:

  • The arresting police officer lacked probable cause to make the initial traffic stop.
  • The officer did not have the necessary DUI training to properly conduct and interpret a roadside sobriety test.
  • The breath or blood test results used in the case were not accurate.
  • Driving under the influence was necessary to avoid the “greater evil” that may have occurred if the person had chosen not to drive.
  • Another individual forced the person to drive while intoxicated.
  • The person had reason to believe the effects of drinking had worn off, and they were no longer intoxicated when they got behind the wheel.
  • The person had involuntarily and unknowingly consumed alcohol before driving.
  • The accused individual was not the actual driver.
  • The police officer fabricated a DUI report or otherwise acted in violation of the accused’s civil rights.

It’s important to realize that not all military DUI charges end in a court martial. Some cases are dismissed or downgraded to a lesser offense due to lack of, or improperly collected, evidence. Of course, this is only possible if you secure representation from a military defense lawyer early in the process.

Speak with Our Military Defense Lawyer

If you are a service member facing drunk driving charges, we recommend seeking advice from qualified legal counsel as soon as possible. Choose Joseph L. Jordan, Attorney at Law to engage the prosecution swiftly and aggressively. We’ll advise you every step of the way, so you are never left to navigate the process alone. Our lead attorney has prior military experience and served as an Army JAG officer, meaning you can trust our team to represent you knowledgeably and professionally.

If you or someone you love has been arrested for DUI on or off a military installation, call us toll free at 800-580-8034 or 254-221-6411 today to speak directly with Joseph L. Jordan about your case.