Generally, society places high expectations for military members to adhere to the law. However, the truth is, a military member is just like any other person and is prone to mistakes. It follows that a mistake made by a military member could have him/her charged with an offense; just like any other person would. One of these missteps is drunk-driving. It is bad enough for a civilian to be charged with DUI in California; but for a military member, the case can be far worse. This is especially so if you are arrested while on-base.

Military members who face DUI charges may have to prove their innocence through three different venues; the California DMV, criminal court, and the military court. Thus, in case you are a military member facing DUI charges, you need to hire an experienced Military DUI defense attorney. By doing this, you stand a chance of avoiding harsh penalties. If you live in Van Nuys, attorneys from The DUI Defense Attorney law firm may be able to help you. They are conversant with both DUI and military laws; thus, they will build a strong defense for your case so that you get the best probable outcome.

What it Means to be Under the Influence in California

DUI usually occurs when a person operates a vehicle when his/her blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is over the legal limit. It also happens when a person drives when they have a drug(s) in their blood system. Generally, DUI is prohibited under Vehicle Code (VC) 23152a & b.

VC 23152a is the general law for DUI. It makes it an offense to drive while intoxicated with alcohol, drugs, or both. VC 23152b is the per se law. It makes it a crime for a person to drive while their BAC is 0.08%.  According to this law, you will be charged with DUI even if you are not impaired, provided your BAC is 0.08%. These laws apply to California adult drivers, both civilians and members of the military. For drivers below the age of 21 years, they can only drive if their BAC is .01%.

DUI penalties vary depending on the facts of the offense and prior DUI convictions. Generally, penalties are severe with the number of DUI convictions.

DUI and Members of the Military

As we said earlier, being convicted of DUI is bad enough for civilians. For instance, first-time civilian offenders may be subjected to fines amounting to $1800 and a maximum of one year in jail. For a military member, being convicted of DUI is worse. The penalties for DUI are severe for military members compared to civilians.

Apart from being sentenced to jail and paying fines, civilians in Van Nuys get a revocation or suspension of their driver’s license if convicted of DUI. Other penalties include probation, DUI School Program, and an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) installation. If the case is severe, the offender could be convicted of a felony. Severe cases include those which property was destroyed, and people were injured due to a DUI accident. The penalties for a felony DUI offense may consist of fines and up to ten years in prison.

For military members, there are other penalties they would face in addition to the ones mentioned above. For one, a military member’s career will be affected if he or she is charged with DUI. If convicted, he/she may be subjected to the following consequences:

  • Monetary fines
  • Rank reduction
  • Being dishonorably discharged from the force
  • Pay reduction
  • Imprisonment
  • Loss of security clearance

If you are a military member, a simple DUI conviction can ruin your hard work and end your military career. Dishonorable discharge from the military is a grave matter. Several military service members work very hard to avoid this punishment.

Working as a military member has several advantages. Offering your services to the military has a promise for a career in the future and a solid college education. Some military members will get these two benefits while others enjoy more. Thus, if you are a member of the military, you have to get an experienced DUI lawyer immediately when you get arrested for drunk-driving. The attorney may be able to defend your rights and reputation to avoid a dishonorable discharge from the force.

Many of the offenses that take place in military bases are presided over by military courts. However, for DUI offenses, these courts lack exclusive authority to preside over the case. When a military member is arrested for drunk-driving, civilian courts may also have jurisdiction to handle the matter. This depends on where the incident and arrest happened.

However, if initially a military DUI case is filed both by military and civilian courts, the two courts will agree. They will come together and decide how the alleged offender is prosecuted. Note that drunk-driving charges can often result in both military and civilian charges. Thus, if one court exonerates you, the other court may still need you to answer to the DUI accusations against you.

Penalty Categories for Military Members Convicted of DUI

A commanding officer punishes any member of the military that is convicted of a DUI while on-base. Because the officer has been given the mandate to decide how the case will proceed, he or she could punish the offender in one of these three ways:

  • Non-judicial punishment under Article 15 of the UCMJ
  • Administrative penalties
  • Court-martials

The above consequences are further grouped into two primary categories. They include administrative action and punitive action.

  1. Administrative Action

Administrative action taken against a member of the military convicted of DUI include:

  • Pass revocation
  • Driving privilege revocation or suspension
  • Rank reduction (based on the rank of the offender)
  • Being barred from reenlistment
  • Corrective training

Sometimes your commanding officer may want you to go for mandatory substance abuse treatment. If you have two severe DUI cases in a single year, you will be punished differently and quite severely.

Keep in mind that the severity of the crime primarily determines the possible punishment for DUI offenders in the military. For instance, a DUI case of reckless driving which has no serious repercussions, might not be punished severely. This is as opposed to a situation where a drunk-driving military member causes a crash that results in property damage or injury/death of another person.

The circumstances surrounding the case are also taken into consideration. They help determine whether your case is severe or minor. This, in turn, helps to determine where you will be tried for your offense and which court will punish you.

Note that you have the right to request to be tried by a court-martial instead of being punished non-judicially.  Also, before being non-judicially punished, ensure the outcome of the investigation into your case is tabled. These results help in establishing whether the penalty you will receive will be just or not.

  1. Punitive Action

Punitive action would include:

  • Non-judicial penalties as per Article 15 of the UCMJ (commonly known as Office Hours or Captain’s Mast.
  • Being court-martialed. Your sentences might consist of imprisonment, loss of the offender’s pay, dishonorable military discharge, or rank reduction.

Court Martials

A court-martial refers to a military court that conducts trials in the same way as a civilian court would. The court determines what happens to members of the military that commit offenses that violate martial law. If you are found guilty of a violation, the court-martial will determine the appropriate consequences for the kind of crime you committed. Apart from conducting trials for on-the-base military offenders, court-martials can also be used to prosecute officers of the military that commit war offenses. Civilian offenders may also be prosecuted in court-martials if they break the martial laws.

DUI is a grave crime for any member of the military. This makes it an offense that could be prosecuted in this court. Court-martials impose harsher penalties compared to civilian courts.

Any military officer who drives recklessly while intoxicated with drugs or alcohol is punished according to the direction of the court-martial. The guidelines issued by the courts are stated under UCMJ’s Article 111.

Court Martial Categories

Court-martials are divided into three main categories. They include:

General Court-martials

These are the military courts that handle many of the severe offenses. If a member of the military is tried in this court for DUI, he/she may receive the maximum possible punishment allowed by the UCMJ. The penalties may include being dishonorably discharged from the force. 

Summary Court-martials

These courts are used to prosecute members of the military that have committed less serious offenses. These courts lack the presence of attorneys, military magistrates, or Judge Advocate Generals; they will only have commissioned officers. If this court convicts you of DUI, the punishment you would face includes 40 days of hard labor, at least 30 days of confinement, a pay reduction for a month, and rank reduction.

Special Court-martials

Special court-martials are courts that handle more severe offenses. They operate just like civilian criminal courts. In these courts, the defendant is entitled to a defense lawyer who represents their plea. Here, the maximum sentence an offender can get includes:

  • Confinement for a maximum of one year
  • No pay for six months
  • Three months of hard labor
  • Being discharged from the forces for bad conduct.

Non-Judicial Punishment Under Article 15

Since it is a separate unit, the military operates on its distinct guidelines and laws as provided for under the UCMJ. If a member of the military violates any of these regulations, and their crime is severe enough, they may need a hearing. In a case like this one, the offender can request a court-martial to hear their case. In this court, the offender is tried by a jury comprising of military officers, warrant officers, and other enlisted members. Members are enlisted based on a defendant’s rank. In many cases, the chain of command of the defendant handles crimes that appear to be of a lesser magnitude.

It might not be necessary for a hearing if an officer of the military commits a minor drunk-driving offense. Thus, Article 15 of the UCMJ permits the commanding officer of the defendant to decide whether or not the defendant is guilty. If they are guilty, the officer has to impose a type of punishment which has the same magnitude as the offense.

Article 15 of the UCMJ sets forth the law on non-judicial penalties. It allows an immediate superior officer of an offender to handle cases that occur while on the military base. However, this happens only if the offenses are minor.

Court Jurisdictions over Military DUI Cases

Generally, military courts have jurisdiction over any offense that is committed by members of the service that are actively on duty. However, if a crime is committed by a member of the military wherever he/she may be, the jurisdiction shifts to a civilian court. The following are the instances that determine which court presides over a military DUI case.

A Military Member Arrested for DUI Off-Base

If a member of the military gets arrested for drunk-driving while off the base, their case will be taken to a civilian court. In this case, they will be subjected to these penalties if convicted:

Criminal Penalties

Criminal penalties will include possible jail time, fines, as well as other non-custodial penalties. The degree of the penalties you will receive varies depending on the prior convictions you have had. It also depends on the aggravating factors that were at play when you got arrested. Every case is determined independently based on its facts. However, if you want to stand a chance of avoiding these penalties, you should seek the services of a civilian DUI defense attorney. The attorney may prepare a solid defense and challenge the case to get a verdict of ‘not guilty’ in the case.

Administrative Penalties

Driving under the influence offenses have penalties which are imposed by the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV). These penalties can be administered by order from the court or the DMV itself on its authority. Administrative penalties may include suspension or revocation of your license. The period for which the suspension or revocation will last depends on the number of DUI convictions you have had. It also depends on whether the criminal court convicts you.

Additional penalties would include the installation of an IID in your vehicle, probation, or enrolment in an alcohol school program. Since you will be charged in a civilian court, the military won’t be able to prosecute you of a similar offense.

A Military Member Arrested for Drunk-Driving On a Military Base

If a military member gets arrested for DUI while on a military base, the military court will charge you under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). A military base may be Naval Base or Camp Pendleton. The offender will face a court-martial as well as adverse administrative penalties. For this form of a DUI offense, the defender won’t be charged in a civilian court. However, he or she could still be subjected to penalties like license suspension, IID installation, probation, etc. Penalties that the military court may impose are as follows:

Non-Judicial Penalties

Based on the seriousness of your DUI offense, non-judicial penalties against you may include:

  • Additional duties
  • Reprimand
  • Restrictions

Judicial Penalties

Judicial punishment can be as a result of a court-martial proceeding. They could include confinement, pay penalties, and dismissal.

A Civilian Arrested for Drunk-Driving on a Military Base

In case a civilian gets arrested for drunk-driving on a military base, they will be tried in a federal court as opposed to a state court. Although, it is the state’s drunk-driving laws that the federal court will use when convicting him/her. A civilian on a military base could be a member of the family, or friends to the military member. It also could be a civilian employee who works on that base or is allowed access to the base.

Note that even if it is the civilian court presiding over your case, your commanding officer could still impose administrative penalties against you. The administrative penalties may include:

  • Pass privileges removal
  • Written reprimand
  • They could refer you to a mandatory treatment program
  • Lowering your ranking
  • Corrective training
  • They could bar you from reenlistment

Also, the army can try you with other crimes that are closely related to drunk-driving; for instance, disorderly conduct. Once the civilian court concludes your case, the military court may also bring similar drunk-driving charges against you.

Thus, when you get charged with military DUI, you hire an experienced DUI attorney. This way, you stand a chance to make sure your good ranking in the military still stands. It will also help prove your innocence beyond a doubt.

Find a Van Nuys Military DUI Defense Attorney Near Me

As we have seen, facing DUI charges is a more serious affair for a military service member than it is for a civilian. It comes with the risk of losing your job and other penalties. Therefore, we advise that upon your arrest, you should seek help from an expert military DUI defense attorney. If you are a Van Nuys resident, contact The DUI Defense Attorney at 818-253-1913, and we will do the best we can to help you. Our attorneys understand the UCMJ laws as well as your rights as a defendant. They will build a solid defense that will get you the best probable results.