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DUI In The Military: Consequences and Legal Implications

Many military service members are frequently tasked with operating motor vehicles, vessels, and aircraft as part of their duties. When operating these machines, service members of the military must do so responsibly and safely. This requirement necessarily prohibits driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs. DUI in the military is punished harshly and can lead to being dishonorably discharged from the military, among other serious, life-altering consequences and implications. If you are facing criminal charges for drunk driving while operating a personal or military vehicle, whether on base or off base, consider contacting Driving Defense Law. These attorneys represent members of the military facing DUI charges and will fight to help servicemembers avoid a conviction or minimize the penalties imposed for a conviction. Call (757) 929-0335 today to schedule a free case evaluation. 

What Happens After a Military DUI? 

All branches of the United States military hold a zero-tolerance policy for drunk driving. Service members of the military are typically held to a stricter standard of conduct than civilians, which is why the consequences of DUI in the military tend to be much more severe compared to DUIs for civilians. A conviction can ruin a person’s career in the military service once and for all. When a military servicemember is caught operating a land vehicle, vessel, or aircraft under the influence, their commanding officer will often suspend their driving privileges while the investigation is pending and until the DUI case is resolved. In extreme cases, the military member’s driving privileges may be revoked entirely. 

The Difference Between DUIs in a Civilian Court vs. Military Courts 

While civilian courts and military courts have many things in common when it comes to handling DUI cases, there are also important differences between these two judicial procedures: 

  • Jurisdiction. Military courts have jurisdiction only over service members of the military who violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), while civilian courts handle both criminal and civil cases involving civilians. 
  • People present. In a typical DUI case in a civilian court, the people present in the courtroom include a judge, jurors, the prosecution, the defendant, and the defendant’s attorney. Military courts, on the other hand, consist of a military judge and a panel of at least three members of the military who serve as jurors. 
  • Speed of court proceedings. Proceedings in military courts usually run faster than proceedings in civilian courts, primarily because the UCMJ requires a quicker resolution of pending cases against service members of the military. 
  • Verdict. In civilian courts, a guilty verdict in a criminal DUI case must be unanimous to secure a conviction, both at the federal level and, according to the Constitution Annotated, in all state courts since 2020. In military courts, on the other hand, the military defendant can be convicted if at least two-thirds of the members present vote for the conviction under 10 U.S. Code § 852
  • Punishment. Generally, a DUI in the military court may be punished more harshly than the same offense would in a civilian court and may involve penalties specific to military service, such as rank reduction, extra duty, and dishonorable discharge. 
  • Appeals process. In DUI cases involving members of the military that are heard in civilian courts, the defendant can file an appeal to a state or federal appellate court. By contrast, military DUI cases can only be appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF), which handles appeals from all branches of the United States military. In fact, according to the CAAF’s website, the CAAF exercises appellate jurisdiction over service members of the military subject to the UCMJ across the world. 

While crimes, including DUIs, committed by servicemembers on a federal military base are usually handled in the military court, if the arrest took place off base, then it may be tried in civilian court, instead. In some cases, the service member may even be tried in both military and civilian courts. 

The Consequences of DUI in the Military

Convictions for military DUIs tend to carry harsher penalties compared to DUI convictions for civilians. Some of the penalties associated with DUIs by military personnel include but are not limited to:

  • Dishonorable discharge from the military
  • Disciplinary demotion
  • Reduction in rank
  • Payment of deductions
  • Disqualification from future promotions in the military career
  • Fines
  • Reduction in pay
  • Extra duty service
  • Imprisonment
  • Damaged reputation
  • Loss of benefits or disputed entitlement to benefits, such as military pension, after leaving the service 
  • Corrective training
  • General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand (GOMOR)
  • Suspension or revocation of driving privileges
  • Mandatory alcohol abuse treatment program
  • Loss of the security clearance status

The consequences of a DUI in the military can be significant and far-reaching. When your career and your future are on the line, you cannot afford to take a chance. Individuals who find themselves in this circumstance might want to consider hiring an experienced and results-driven defense attorney who will help them work towards the most favorable outcome possible. Driving Defense Law represents members of all military branches who have been accused of DUI, reckless driving, speeding, and other traffic violations on and off military bases. 

Can You Join the Military With a DUI Conviction? 

If you have plans to join the military now or in the foreseeable future but have a DUI conviction, you might wonder how your criminal record can affect your chances of getting into the military. All breaches of the United States military frown upon DUIs. Some of the reasons why a DUI may negatively impact an individual’s potential for career advancement in the military may include:

  • Any criminal conviction makes it harder to obtain a security clearance needed to fulfill military duties
  • A DUI conviction also makes it harder to obtain a driver’s license, said license being often necessary for service members of the military whose duties include operating motor vehicles, vessels, and aircraft
  • DUIs may indicate potential issues with substance abuse

Typically, an application to join the military will face increased scrutiny when the applicant has a DUI conviction on their criminal record. Concealing a prior DUI is not a realistic option, as the background check will most certainly uncover your DUI conviction. In addition to a denied application, this could also lead to criminal prosecution for providing false information on your application. While it may still be possible to join the military with a DUI conviction on your record if you request a waiver for the DUI conviction, waivers are more likely to be approved for individuals who have only one DUI conviction. Military applicants with two or more DUI convictions are much less likely to be able to pursue a waiver option.

Fight for Your Military Career With Driving Defense Law

A DUI conviction can ruin years or decades of hard work and dedication and put a proud career in the military service to an end. Do not let your mistakes derail your life. The traffic and DUI defense attorneys at Driving Defense Law fight to help clients achieve the best outcomes and may be able to help you minimize the punishment of a DUI in the military. Get in touch today by calling at (757) 929-0335 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.