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Considering the Legal Implications of Drunk Driving and Marijuana Use

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

Whether you’re living on or off an installation, driving under the influence or possessing or using marijuana can get you in serious trouble in the military. You should understand the consequences of these issues and how to handle them if you do land in legal trouble.

Legal implications of driving under the influence

If you are charged with driving under the influence on or off your military installation, you could face various judicial and nonjudicial punishments.

Civilian punishments vary by state and may include:

  • Criminal law penalties
  • Suspension or revocation of your license
  • Mandatory alcohol education, assessment and treatment
  • Vehicle confiscation

Judicial punishment (court-martial): If you are stopped on the installation or if the civilian authorities are not prosecuting, you can receive a court-martial under Article 111 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Punishments can include loss of pay, reduction in grade, confinement and dismissal from the military.

Nonjudicial punishment: Commanding officers can levy nonjudicial punishment for minor disciplinary offenses under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. They can punish you through an official reprimand, extra duty, restriction to limits, forfeiture of pay or reduction in grade. Additional punitive actions may include:

  • Letter of reprimand
  • Revocation of pass privileges
  • Mandatory referral to a substance abuse treatment program
  • Corrective training
  • Administrative reduction in grade
  • Being barred from re-enlistment

If you have been charged while on an installation under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, you are entitled to no-cost representation by a military defense counsel, or you may hire a civilian attorney at your own expense.

If you are facing criminal charges off-installation, then the military 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 defense counsel regardless of the location of the incident and would need to seek civilian representation, if they deem it necessary.

The basic facts of federal law and marijuana in the military

Some states have legalized the possession and use of marijuana in small amounts for recreational or medical use. Regardless of state laws, however, active-duty service members are still subject to arrest by federal authorities under federal law.

In addition, service members on federal duty are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Article 112a of the Uniform Code of Military Justice has the following maximum punishments:

  • Possession of more than 30 grams of marijuana — dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and confinement for five years
  • Possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana — dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and confinement for two years
  • Possession with intent to distribute, growing, importing or exporting marijuana — dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and confinement for 15 years

Even if the Uniform Code of Military Justice doesn’t apply to you, if you test positive for marijuana through a military drug test, your commander — depending on the service branch — will or can initiate a separation action to remove you from service and may refer you for rehabilitative treatment.

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

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