Legal Implications of Getting a DUI On or Off an Installation

If you are charged with driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated on or off your local military installation, you may be facing numerous judicial and nonjudicial punishments.

Civilian penalties

If you are charged with a DUI off the installation, you may be subject to criminal and administrative punishments from the state. The punishments vary from state to state and are typically harsher for repeat offenders. These punishments may include:

  • Criminal law penalties - If you are arrested for a DUI, you may be subject to criminal law penalties such as jail time, fines and community service. These penalties are levied at the discretion of the court and vary depending on whether you are a repeat offender, whether you were involved in an accident and whether anyone else was injured or killed. Generally speaking, first-time DUI offenders can expect to incur a fine and face the possibility of jail time. Repeat DUI offenders will incur harsher fines and will almost certainly be sentenced to a number of days in jail.
  • Administrative license suspension/revocation - If your blood alcohol content is above the state limit for intoxication or you refuse to submit to BAC testing, you will likely have your driver's license suspended or revoked. Depending on the state and how many offenses you have, this can range from as little as 60 days to five years. Administrative suspension or revocation of a driver's license is usually carried out by a state agency (such as a Department of Motor Vehicles), separate from any criminal court penalties. Most states impose harsher penalties for second or third DUI offenses, typically defined as those that occur within five years of a prior DUI offense. Additionally, your installation commander may suspend or revoke your on-installation driving privileges. An on-installation suspension and/or revocation may also be relied upon by state agencies to suspend a driver's license.
  • Mandatory alcohol education and assessment/treatment - The state may also require you to attend alcohol education and/or assessment/treatment services. This can include mandatory attendance at DUI prevention programs and an assessment of potential alcohol dependency problems. Such programs are often made "conditions" of a suspended sentence or probation, meaning that you can avoid jail time and payment of hefty fines if you complete participation in the program.
  • Vehicle confiscation - Vehicle confiscation penalties allow a motor vehicle department or law enforcement agency to seize your vehicle, either permanently or for a set period of time. Such penalties typically apply only to repeat DUI offenders, and often the return of the vehicle requires payment of fines and significant administrative costs.
  • Ignition interlock - A vehicle ignition interlock breath-testing device measures your BAC and will prevent operation of the vehicle if more than a minimal amount of alcohol is detected (typically, a BAC level of 0.02). You will usually be required to pay the cost of installation, rental and maintenance of an ignition interlock device.

Military punitive actions

Punitive actions under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice are available to the military if you are not being prosecuted by civilian authorities, which is typically the case if you were stopped for a DUI while on the installation. The military cannot administer action under the UCMJ for the same offense if you are being charged by civilian authorities. This applies regardless of the outcome of the civilian case. You may still be subject to UCMJ actions for associated misconduct that is not being prosecuted by civilian authorities, such as disorderly conduct or resistance to law enforcement officials.

  • Nonjudicial punishment - Commanding officers can levy NJP to their service members for minor disciplinary offenses under Article 15 of the UCMJ. Each of the services uses different names for NJP to include "Article 15" in the Army and Air Force, "Captain's Mast" or "Mast" in the Navy and Coast Guard, and "Office Hours" in the Marine Corps. Under NJP, commanders can make an inquiry into the facts surrounding the offenses allegedly committed, afford the accused a hearing and either dismiss the charges, impose punishment under the provisions of Article 15 or refer the case to a court-martial. Under NJP, commanding officers can punish you through a variety of mechanisms, usually dependent on the nature of the offense. These can include an official reprimand, extra duty, restriction to limits, forfeiture of pay and reduction of grade.
  • Judicial punishment (court-martial) - If you are stopped on the installation, or the civilian authorities are not prosecuting you, you can still receive a court-martial for a DUI under Article 115 of the UCMJ. Article 115 specifically states that any person who operates or physically controls any vehicle, aircraft or vessel in a reckless or wanton manner or while impaired shall be punished as a court-martial may direct. Punishments related to court-marital can include forfeiture of pay, reduction in grade, confinement and dismissal from the military.

Military administrative actions

Regardless of whether you are being charged by civilian authorities or receiving UCMJ action, your commanding officer can take administrative actions against you. These actions may include:

  • Letter of reprimand - A letter of reprimand is a formal document from your superior (usually a general officer) that details your wrongful actions and the punishment that can be expected. Although letters of reprimand are less severe than a court-martial, they can be career-ending as the letter remains in your record and can have adverse effects on your ability to receive a promotion.
  • Revocation of pass privileges - Your commander can revoke your ability to go on leave. If you are being charged by civilian authorities, this usually lasts until the civilian court proceedings are complete. If you are facing military punitive actions, this denial of leave typically lasts until your UCMJ punishments are served and complete.
  • Mandatory referral to a substance abuse treatment program - Your commander can mandate that you enroll in and complete a substance abuse treatment program through your branch of service's respective program.
  • Corrective training - Your commander may require corrective training if he/she believes you would benefit from additional instruction or practice in a particular area. This training is designed to correct deficiencies and eliminate the need for formal disciplinary measures in the future.
  • Administrative reduction in grade - Depending on your situation and your rank, your commander can reduce your grade. The rank of the commander who may approve an administrative reduction in grade depends on your rank.
  • Bar to reenlistment - A bar to reenlistment is a procedure that commanders may use to deny you the opportunity to reenlist after your current service is complete. This procedure is used for those whose immediate separation is not warranted, but whose reenlistment is not in the best interest of the military.

Additional assistance

If you have been charged with a DUI or DWI, you should consult your military area defense counsel for further advice. The area defense counsel can provide you confidential advice while allowing you the right to hire a civilian defense attorney.

If you have been charged under the UCMJ, you are entitled to no cost representation by a military area defense counsel, or you may opt to hire a civilian attorney, at your own expense. If you are facing criminal charges off-installation, then the area defense counsel cannot represent you in civilian court and you may need to hire a civilian attorney for representation. Dependents and civilian family members are not entitled to representation by a military area defense counsel regardless of the location of the incident and would need to seek civilian representation regardless, if they deem necessary.

Please note that if a member faces trial in an off-installation civilian court, he or she may need to consult a civilian defense attorney.



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