The Effects of a DUI Offense to Service Members
Driving under the influence of alcohol or any type of impairing drug (whether prescription or illegal) is a crime in all 50 states as well as in the District of Columbia. Regardless of how it is referred to, DUI, for driving under the influence, DWI, for driving while intoxicated, or some other name, it is a serious offense that is met with costly fines and harsh punishments. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), alcohol impairment is the cause of about 40% of all traffic deaths in the US.
While the effects of a DUI charge to a civilian can be devastating, to uniformed service members it can be doubly overwhelming since facing a civilian or a military DUI, or both, can impact their personal lives and military career. This is because even if a DUI incident and arrest have taken place off a military base and will be heard in a civilian court, the charge can be filed by both civilian and military authorities. Worse, even if the civilian court acquits a service member, he or she can still be subjected to punitive actions (based on the same incident and arrest) from the military, since the military normally has jurisdiction over any crimes committed anywhere by active duty service members.
Getting arrested for a DUI on base, however, can possibly result to the following, even worse, consequences:
- First, though saved from facing a civilian criminal charge, the state is authorized, if it wishes to do so, to suspend one’s driving privileges or require the installation of an interlock device in his or her vehicle;
- Second, be charged with drunken or reckless driving, which is stipulated under Section 911: Art. 111 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), and be subjected to a court martial and administrative actions. A court martial can result to imprisonment, grade reduction, forfeiture of pay, or dismissal from service; an administrative action, on the other hand, can result to revocation of driving privileges, cancellation of pass, letter of reprimand, mandatory treatment for substance abuse, reduction in grade (depends on rank), corrective training (like a mandatory refresher course on military laws), or getting barred from being reenlisted. Repeated alcohol-related misconduct within a year can result to separation from service; or,
- Third, be offered a non-judicial punishment (NJP), which is authorized by Article 15 of the UCMJ. Non-judicial punishment (or “Article 15” in the US Armed Forces and US Air Force; “Captain’s Mast” in the US Navy and the US Coast Guard; and, “Office Hours” in the Marine Corps) is a form of military justice which allows commanders to discipline the members of his troops.
According to Flaherty Defense Firm, uniformed service member can either accept non-judicial punishment or refuse it and choose a court-martial trial instead (in like manner, one loses his or her right to a court-martial trial if he or she opts for the NJP). Regardless of how service members choose to defend themselves, though, be it in a civilian court, a military court or before a commander, after choosing NJP, it will always be better if, during the preparation of their personal testimony and evidences, they are represented or assisted by a lawyer, who has extensive experience in litigating military cases.