• Justin Sparks

What Happens if You Get a DUI While in the Military?

Even beyond the boundaries of Fort Worth, TX, drunk driving is generally something that the public is not a supporter of. It goes beyond disorderly conduct too. While someone facing DUI charges may not have caused any issues, there's no telling how it could have ended.


In some cases, driving under the influence has terrible repercussions, such as putting the lives of other members of the public in danger, property, damage, etc. A DUI conviction is no joke, and the courts tend to be less lenient about it than they probably would with other charges.


In the state of Texas as is the case in other states, you are not legally allowed to drive while intoxicated. This applies whether the vehicle in question is a car, truck, motorcycle, or anything of the sort.


What Is a DUI?

What Is a DUI?


You may see this also referred to as a DWI or an OVI. It is an offense carrying potentially life-threatening implications and is characterized by a higher level of blood alcohol content than is allowed in vehicle operation.


A breathalyzer test tends to be carried out by police officers to determine blood alcohol levels. Once the concentration is above 0.8, Texas law counts the person as being intoxicated. Alternatively, blood or urine can also assist in determining intoxication.


Note that Texas law allows an arrest for intoxication even if you fall below the 0.8 threshold that characterizes the crime. This happens if the driver, though below the legal limit, shows signs of being intoxicated, such as slurred speech, an inability to maintain equilibrium, etc.


Depending on the circumstances surrounding the crime, punishment can take several forms following an arrest and a guilty verdict. These could include a driver's license suspension with revocation of driving privileges, jail time, a requirement to pay a fine, etc. The combination of penalties that come with a DUI charge tends to be proportionate to the extent of the impact and how the jurisdiction may decide to address it.


The Military DUI


Conviction following a military DUI is not as automatic as some military members and civilians may think. However, the military tends to deal with a harsher subset of penalties than a normal person would for DUI offenses.


After an arrest by a civilian police officer, the case can be tried via a general court-martial, but it may also be tried as a typical civilian case. In either case, you may find that there's an official reprimand by the military, and this may range from moderate to severe consequences if service members are found guilty in a DUI case.


If you're a military service member facing a DUI conviction, it's a good idea to retain a solid Tarrant County TX DWI lawyer ahead of any court proceedings you may have.


Military Justice for an On-base DUI


This case happens when the arresting party falls under the jurisdiction of a military base. In this case, a military installation has the authority to try its armed forces.


A military member is way more likely to face a court-martial for on-base DUI cases. First, there is the matter of military courts. The military court, unlike a civil court, uses a different system to deal with a DUI incident.


This comes in the form of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The handling of the case here is based on Article 111 and Section 911 of military justice law. Here, military authorities subject the violating member to adverse administrative actions, as well as a court-martial.


Note that civilian authorities do not get to try these kinds of military DUI cases. There's a double jeopardy situation here as the administrative penalties can be accompanied by a court-martial and military members in this situation can also face penalties that directly relate to driving privileges.


These may include driver's license suspension, interlock device use requirements, as well as other non-judicial punishment types.


A Lower Burden of Proof


When you hear terms such as "military court" and "court martial" being thrown around, you may start to wonder what elements of military courts make them so different from your standard civilian court, beyond being a military service authority.


First, and most importantly, there's the matter of the ceiling for the burden of proof. In your standard civilian case, there's a proceeding with a hearing, where the accused is in the defending position against the charge with an attorney present. Of course, there are also the prosecuting attorneys on the other side of the fence.


Generally, offenses prosecuted and tried this way under civilian jurisdiction tend to have a slower flow of proceedings, indicative of the "innocent until proven guilty" moniker. This even applies to DUI cases, which are so frowned upon.


The verdict ultimately comes down to a review of the evidence provided, and the one accused of drunk driving is generally convicted after this review causes the said person to "lose" the case.


Military courts, on the other hand, fall under the guidelines of the UCMJ. This code guides the way case outcomes are determined. So, should a military member proceed to commit an offense that is deemed severe, a legal hearing is likely required. This is where the offender or commanding officer may request a court-martial, which is explained later.


What you should know though, is that the burden of proof that requires those accused of drunk driving to be proven to have done so beyond the shadow of a doubt in civilian court is not present here.


Military Justice for an Off-base DUI


If there is a DUI off-base, it means civilian authorities try the case instead of a military installation. Nevertheless, the commanding officer of the military service member may choose to take punitive action that runs alongside whatever the civilian courts may decide is appropriate.


The service member being arrested and charged with a DUI, once found guilty, may be required to take corrective training, get enlisted in a substance abuse treatment program, and may even be relieved of pass privileges. Note that beyond the actions that the commanding officer may take, the military justice system may choose to try the serving member on other offenses that are related to the DUI.


Additionally, after being arrested for DUI charges and being taken through the courts as civilian employees would, there may be yet another double jeopardy situation. The military court reserves the right to try military members for the same DUI charges that the civilian court may have. In this case, DUI offenses end up carrying two sets of consequences, as they are tried as two separate crimes in two different courts.


Military DUI and Interference with the Civilian Court


There's a common school of thought that the military may choose to intervene where service members are being prosecuted off base in civilian courts. However, this occurrence is very unlikely.


As indicated above, commanding officers may impose punishments, military courts may choose to try the case, and there's even the possibility of the whole ordeal ending in a court-martial. However, it's very unlikely that the army is going to even attempt to interfere in a situation in which one of its members must face charges from a DUI arrest.


Understanding a Court Martial


Court martials are often heard of in media and potentially even from service members but it's a concept that many may not understand. First, it's essential to start things off by talking about the military court, since that's where the process begins for a serving member of the military.


Unlike a civilian court, which is wide-reaching, military courts have jurisdiction only over military service members. To put this in perspective, if a civilian is arrested for a DUI on-base, though the trial may occur in a federal court, soldiers cannot determine the fate of a civilian court.


Therefore, you find that the penalties are in line with those that a civilian court may impose for drunk driving. That's because there is no federal law in place at the moment that addresses a civilian DUI.


As explained above, the court is based on the UCMJ. A court-martial tends to be carried out at the request of the DUI offender. Note this goes for any offense in the military that is deemed to require a legal hearing.


The trial consists of a jury made up of military officers, warrant officers, and any other enlisted member. The composition depends on the offender's rank. For lesser magnitude cases, defendant cases are heard by their chain of command.


Note, however, that minor offenses that don't require a judicial hearing can be handled by the UCMJ's Article 15, which allows commanding a commanding officer to decide on what non-judicial punishment is used. This is after the said commanding officer gets to decide if the military offender is guilty or not.


Potential Military DUI Consequences


Now that you're familiar with how a military DUI works up to the point of the charges and how the court-martial system fits into the equation, it's time to have a look at a broader list of the consequences that service members face where a DUI charge is concerned. These are as follows:

  • Rank reduction

  • Confinement of up to eight days

  • Admonition or reprimand

  • Extra duty service for up to a week

  • A week of restriction

  • Mandatory corrective training

  • Mandatory substance abuse treatment program

  • Fines that total two-thirds of basic pay for a month

If being court-martialed results in a guilty verdict as the DUI defense is not sufficient, penalties may include the following and may be accompanied by administrative actions:

  • Requirement of some pay forfeiture

  • Pay grade reduction

  • Imprisonment

  • Dishonorable discharge

  • Barring from reenlistment

Military Administrative Actions


Administrative action is a common theme where service members slapped with a DUI charge are concerned. While they are technically penalties, they are not as severe as some of those associated with being court-martialed. Note that a DUI case may attract more actions, as this list is by no means meant to be an exhaustive one.


Letter of Reprimand

A general officer tends to compose this formal document, though it can come from your superior if the person fits the bill. It details the actions (your DUI and associated ones in this case) and indicates what punishment is to be expected for the crime.


The letter stays on your record and can affect your future since such incidents can prevent you from being promoted and tarnish your reputation.


Mandated Substance Abuse Treatment

Commanders are allowed to mandate your enlistment in such a program following your DUI. It tends to be handled by your Service's representative program branch.


Administrative Grade Reduction

This one depends on your rank and the rank of the commander who can approve your reduced grade.


Reenlistment Denial

After a military service member's current service is complete, it's not uncommon for attempts to be made at reenlistment. However, when this procedure is invoked, whenever your service may happen to end, your ability to re-enter is revoked.


Note that this action may be taken when the parameters of your DUI are not severe enough for you to be outrightly dismissed.


Post-military Challenges You May Face

Post-military Challenges You May Face


You may think that a revocation of your pass privileges and maybe even a dishonorable discharge are the end of your worries since you can return to the civilian world where your DUI is no longer a concern. However, your future may not be as bright as you would hope.


Inability to Work in the Civilian World

It's often difficult enough for military members to find gainful employment following service. It gets even more difficult, when a firm may refuse to hire you because of how your military separation occurred.


Marital Challenges

Service members tend to be the breadwinners in the home. While your return is welcome, losing your family's source of income may result in some marital issues.


Loan Acquisitions

A loan becomes nearly impossible to get for someone who cannot demonstrate proof of employment and income.


Retain an Expert Military DUI Attorney Today!


DUI defense is no easy feat, and it's even more difficult for you to do on your own as a military service member. If you have any concerns related to impaired driving such as what to do after DUI probation is over or how long can you delay a DUI case, get in touch with our experienced lawyers.


Sparks Law Firm, located in Fort Worth, TX, has the expertise and experience needed to help you fight against these charges that could potentially ruin the rest of your life. Call us today at (817) 381-7846 for a free consultation!