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Military DUI’s

The overall seriousness of the consequences of DUI and DWI charges for members of the armed forces, both while serving in the military and later in a civilian capacity, are not to be taken lightly. A DUI arrest may have a significant impact not only on a military career, but also on a future civilian career.  Understanding the potential military and civilian consequences of a conviction is the first step to a successful defense.

             The Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) Article 111 is the controlling authority regarding DUI arrests of service members. Article 111 reads as follows:

             Any person subject to this chapter who—

(1) operates or physically controls any vehicle, aircraft, or vessel in a reckless or wanton manner or while impaired by a substance described in section 912a(b) of this title (Article 112a(b)), or

(2) operates or is in actual physical control of any vehicle, aircraft, or vessel while drunk or when the alcohol concentration in the person’s blood or breath is equal to or exceeds the level prohibited under subsection (b), as shown by chemical analysis, shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

            In determining the applicable legal limit for the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream or breath for incidents occurring inside the United States, the UCMJ adopts the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for the state in which the conduct at issue (i.e. the operation of an aircraft, vehicle, of vessel) occurred. In Virginia, the legal limit is .08 BAC. Thus, if you are a service member cited for a DUI in Virginia, the BAC applied by the UCMJ to your situation will be .08 BAC.

           A service member charged with a DUI or DWI will be tried in the military court system in accordance with the UCMJ. Military courts in DUI and DWI cases are subject neither to sentencing guidelines nor minimum sentence requirements. As such, a service member brought before a military court on DUI or DWI charges is truly vulnerable to the sympathies of the court, a situation making the attainment of competent counsel all the more pressing. Military sentences for a DUI or DWI may include the following: dishonorable or general discharge, reduction in rank, reduced pay grade, fines, forfeiture of pay or allowances, reprimand, confinement, and imprisonment. Unlike DUI and DWI sentencing in civilian courts, probation is not a sentencing option for military courts due to the temporary nature of courts martial.

          If you are being charged and tried in a civilian court, the UCMJ cannot charge you for the same offense. However you may face charges for corresponding offenses, such as disorderly conduct or resistance to law enforcement officials. Thus, in addition to military punishment, a service member may face civilian punishments as well. Civilian punishments for DUI and DWI may include the following: revocation of the service member’s driver’s license; mandatory alcohol education; or the installation of an ignition interlock on the service member’s vehicle.  Furthermore, after the service member’s military career ends, finding civilian employment may be made more difficult with a DUI on the service member’s record. Many civilian employers will not hire applicants with a DUI on their record. In addition, the serious nature of a DUI charge in combination with any adverse action taken by the military in response to such a charge reflect poorly on the character and fitness of former servicemembers and work against their potential for employment in civilian capacities.

        If you are a service member facing DUI or DWI charges, the only smart course of action is to immediately seek the assistance of an experienced attorney!


An outstanding job on my case to have custody, visitation and support decided in my home state instead of Virginia after I separated from military service.- A.E.