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Charged with DUI Off Base

The U.S. military expects service members to maintain the highest standards of discipline, both on and off duty. If a service member is charged with a DUI off base by local law enforcement, local civilian authorities will likely handle the matter through the civilian criminal justice system. Article 111 of the UCMJ also makes it illegal to operate a vehicle while drunk, meaning that the military can also prosecute the service member. Often, though, civilian and military authorities will agree to let one or the other take the lead in prosecuting the case.

This blog post discusses how a service member may face punishment under both criminal justice systems and what actions may be taken under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) for a DUI.

Non-Judicial Punishment

An off-base DUI offense will likely be addressed through the local civilian criminal court system. You will be subject to all civilian penalties prescribed by state law, including fines, loss of your driver's license, and possible jail time.

Being charged in civilian court does not mean that you cannot be prosecuted by the military. The double jeopardy rule means that you cannot be convicted of the same crime more than once. A state law crime of DUI, however, is different than a military crime of DUI. Your commanding officer, therefore, has the ability to take additional punitive action. Punitive actions for DUI under Article 15 may mean a reduction in pay and rank, reduced driving privileges, and a bar to reenlistment. If you receive an Article 15, you have the right to turn it down and, instead, request a court martial. Bear in mind, though, that your court-martial will normally be based on the same evidence the civilian prosecutor used against you.

Administrative Action

In addition or instead of an Article 15 or court-martial, a DUI may subject you to serious administrative actions, as well. Specifically, your command may move to separate you from the service. A separation may result in a negative discharge, which can affect your right to various benefits as well as your employment prospects.

If you have been charged with a DUI and are facing the possible loss of your career, talk to an experienced military defense attorney.

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