How Serious Is a DUI on a Military Installation?

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Being charged for driving under the influence
(DUI) as a civilian is a serious offense, and one that can result in jail time,
a license suspension, a large fine, and other potential consequences. When a
civilian is arrested and charged for DUI, the process that follows is relatively
straightforward – charges will be read, the defendant will have an opportunity
to defend himself/herself or enter a plea bargain, and the party will either be
found not guilty or guilty (the latter of which will result in sentencing from
the court).

For members of the military on a military
installation who are charged for DUI, the process may be more complicated. The
defendant may face both civilian penalties and punishments under the Uniform
Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Consider the following about the severity of a
DUI on a military installation, and call our lawyers directly for help from an
experienced military law attorney.

for a DUI Off Base

If you are arrested for DUI by a civilian
police officer off base, your case will likely be prosecuted by the state.

In Colorado

, a blood alcohol concentration
(BAC) of at least .08 percent results in criminal charges brought by the state
as well as an administrative penalty license suspension of at least nine months.
If you are arrested and have DUI charges brought against you by the state, you
will have the same rights as a civilian in defending yourself, including the
right to an attorney.

It is important to note that even if the
civilian court acquits you of DUI charges, the military could still pursue
punitive action against you for the same DUI incident before or after the
conclusion of the civilian case. It could involve a court martial – in the Navy
it’s called Captain’s Mast.

for DUI On-Base/ Punishments Under Uniform Code of Military Justice

If you are arrested for a DUI or DWAI (Driving
while Ability Impaired) on base, you will likely face penalties under the UCMJ.
This may be the case even if you face civilian penalties for the DUI.

Even if civilian criminal charges do not apply
to you, the Colorado DMV may still suspend your driver’s license, require you
to install an interlock ignition device, or impose other administrative
penalties (through the state) that impact your driving privileges.

Section 10 U.S.C. Section 911 addresses the
impaired operation of a motor vehicle or vessel. Under the code, an offending
party may be subject to both adverse administrative actions and a
court-martial. The action that is taken against you may be up to the discretion
of your commanding officer. Typically, there are two categories of actions that
are taken against those who commit DUIs while on a military installation:
administrative and punitive.

Conviction – Civil Consequences

In Colorado, you
may be convicted for DUI if your BAC is .08 or higher, or you may be convicted
for DWAI if your BAC is .05 or higher. You may also face DUI/DWAI charges even
if your BAC is below the legal limit if there is other evidence that you were
driving while chemically impaired.

The state may
impose penalties for a DUI conviction, which could include imprisonment up to
one year, a fine of up to $1,500, and driver’s license suspension for up to one
year. Penalties will increase in the case of a second or subsequent DUI
conviction or if there are aggravated circumstances, such as a DUI accident
with severe injuries or fatalities. The penalties for a DWAI in Colorado are
less stiff.

Conviction – Military Consequences

If you are convicted
for DUI or DWAI in a civil case while serving in the military, you may face
military consequences separately from the civil consequences. Your
constitutional protection against double jeopardy does not apply in this
situation, because the civil and military justice systems are considered
distinctly separate.

As we touched on
earlier, your military career could be significantly affected if punitive
action is imposed on you under the UCMJ, irrespective of whether the DUI
incident occurred on or off base. Punitive actions could include:

  • Extra military duty (and that normally means work that’s
    unpleasant and/or difficult)
  • Lowered rank, pay scale, and wage
  • Letter of Reprimand
  • Diminished rations or confinement
  • PCS orders or suspended deployment
  • Non-Judicial Punishment
  • A suspension board or a court martial

Lower Burden of
Proof for Punitive Action

Unlike a civilian
case, the burden of proof in the case of a military punitive action is
significantly lower. Disciplinary action for a DUI may be taken for

any sufficient impairment

. Punitive
action may be imposed even before the civil court has found you guilty for DUI.
These actions can be taken regardless of which branch of the military you may
be a part of.

Risk of
Dishonorable Discharge

In addition to the
consequences that may apply under the UCMJ, a DUI conviction for military
personnel could result in a dishonorable discharge which is beyond a loss of
rank. This will also negatively affect your monetary situation.

This could damage
your future civilian career as well – certainly if you had law enforcement on
your mind as a possible future career. Considering how much you potentially
stand to lose, make sure that you have a strong Colorado DUI attorney on your
side with experience in military DUI cases.

A knowledgeable
attorney will focus on a range of factors that could influence the outcome of
your case. They will examine the sequence of events from all angles and
identify any flaws that may have occurred in the procedure. Some of the key factors
that would bear examination include:

  • Any previous DUI record or other arrest history
  • Breathalyzer test results confirmation and equipment
  • Video of the field sobriety test
  • Sample collection and sample testing procedures to
    determine BAC

A rapid legal response and a robust DUI
defense is vital to help ensure the possible delay, deferment, or dismissal of
any serious military penalties in your case.

One final note: Being convicted for DUI in a
civilian court does not necessarily mean that the military will reprimand you
as well, and vice versa. In some cases, the civilian and military courts will
coordinate to determine how the case should proceed, handing over jurisdiction
to one or the other. It is more likely that you will face penalties under the
UCMJ if you are facing secondary or subsequent DUI charges, or if your DUI
resulted in injury or death to any person.

Call an
Experienced Criminal Defense and Military Law Attorney

Facing DUI charges can be intimidating and
nerve-racking. If you’re a member of the military who was arrested for a DUI
while on a military installation, the consequences that you’re potentially
facing may be even more serious. Rather than risk your military career and your
future, it is strongly recommended that you consult with an attorney familiar
in military law.

At the office of Anderson & Carnahan
Attorneys at Law, Attorney Stephen Anderson has years of experience in Colorado
military defense law. As a former infantry sergeant and part of the Air Force
JAG team, attorney Anderson understands the inner workings of military cases
and knows how to effectively navigate both military and civilian criminal

To improve your chances of a favorable outcome
when facing DUI charges, either civilian or military, call our law firm today.
You can reach our team by phone at (719) 473-9099 or by sending us a message
directly. We will provide you with the competent representation you deserve.