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What Happens When You Get a DUI On or Off-Installation

Driving under the influence of alcohol carries serious consequences, no matter if you're on or off a military base. The consequences you might face depend on where you were charged for your DUI, and, in the military, whether you're facing judicial or non-judicial punishment.

Charged With a DUI Off-Installation

If you are caught drinking and driving off-base, you could face criminal and administrative action from the state. Punishment will vary depending on the state and if you've committed a DUI in the past.*

  • Criminal law punishments. This can come in the form of jail time, expensive fines, and required community service. Of course, these options can vary if you are a repeat offender, or if your intoxication led to an accident where someone else was hurt. The penalties for repeat offenders are harsher. Generally, in that case, you're more likely to serve time in jail and to pay a hefty fine. If it's your first time being charged for a DUI, you'll receive similar but somewhat less severe consequences.
  • License suspended or revoked. Often, a person who refuses a blood or breath alcohol test can have his or her license suspended. The suspension time can vary significantly, depending on the state and if you've had a DUI before. Generally, DMVs carry out license suspensions and revocations, separate from the criminal process. On top of this, your military commander may suspend any driving privileges you previously had on the installation.
  • Alcohol education participation. If you participate in these mandatory treatment courses, you could potentially avoid jail time and get fees or fines dismissed. The classes include DUI prevention programs and alcohol assessment to see if you have an unhealthy reliance on alcohol.
  • Vehicle confiscated. This is more likely for repeat offenders. A motor vehicle department may reserve the right to take your vehicle until the required fines are paid in full.
  • Ignition Interlock installed. This breath-testing device measures the alcohol content in your blood, and if a significant amount is detected (often around .02), it will prevent your vehicle from operating. You may also be required to pay the cost of installation.

Charged With DUI On-Installation

In this scenario, instead of facing civilian penalties, you may face punishment under the UCMJ.

  • Article 15 punishment. It's optional for commanding officers to use nonjudicial punishment (NJP) for their service members. The nature of the offense directly effects the officer's decision in regards to punishment, as does the officer's rank/relationship to the servicemember and the servicemember's record. Penalties can include but are not limited to extra duty, grade reduction, an official reprimand, and/or restriction to limits.
  • Court-martial punishment. Potentially, a service member can be court-martialed under Article 111 of the UCMJ for recklessly operating a motor vehicle. The Blood Alcohol Concentration limit for servicemembers operating a motor vehicle varies depending upon the state or country where the act was committed. Potential punishments can include confinement, reduction in rank, forfeiture of pay, and dishonorable discharge from the military.

Action Taken by Commanding Officer

This is regardless of whether or not you had your DUI on or off installation. Such actions may include, but are not limited to:

  • Letter of reprimand
  • Corrective training
  • Reduction in rank
  • Bar to reenlist

If you are in the military and you have been charged with a DUI under the UCMJ, you are entitled to military defense counsel, free of charge. If you are facing criminal charges for a DUI, off-installation, hire a civilian defense attorney with experience in military matters to represent you in civilian court.

* None of what is explained here is intended as legal advice about any particular state's laws. It is only intended as general guidance. Should you be facing a DUI in a particular state, you should consult with an attorney licensed in that state.

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