Driving under the influence can impact your military career, but the amount of impact will vary by scale of offense and your particular branch. There are a number of variables to remember regarding military DUIs, and it's better to know and understand them before you find yourself pulling over for flashing red and blue lights.
As you probably know, many bases keep a board near the checkpoint to count the number of days since the last DUI incident. Rank, age, and squadron of the offender may be included, as a way to hold service members accountable. This indicates the deep-seeded awareness on bases for preventing and monitoring DUIs. So what happens when an underage E-3 goes too hard at a kickback in on-base housing? Or a master sergeant commutes to work smelling of alcohol? Let's explore the variables, procedures, and options available to servicemen at all points of the DUI process.
DUIs On Base
Procedurally, getting stopped for a DUI on base is initially very similar to getting stopped off-base. If Security Forces, PMO, MP, or NSF suspects you of driving under the influence, you may be asked to step out of your vehicle and perform one or more field sobriety tests including the Walk and Turn, One Leg Stand, or Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus tests. These tests are identical to those performed by civilian officers. If you show enough cues of intoxication during the field tests, you may be detained. At this point, you could be asked to consent to a search of your vehicle, which you may or may not agree to. If you do not consent, officers may obtain legal authorization to conduct a search.
You will then be taken back to the officer's squadron and read your rights, as well as an implied consent card. This card explains that by operating a vehicle on base, your consent is implied for the withdrawal and testing of blood, breath, and urine. If you agree to a test, you may be asked to blow into a breathalyzer or to submit to another type of test in order to determine what your blood alcohol content (BAC) is. Although drivers have a choice in whether or not to take a test, refusal will have a two-fold effect on base. First, your on-base driving privileges will be automatically revoked for a minimum of one year. Second, in the absence of consent, legal authorization can be obtained to determine your BAC and you could be taken to the on-base clinic or hospital to have blood drawn.
Airmen take note, anyone found driving on or off base with a BAC over .05 - even those who gave their samples voluntarily - can receive a minimum 1-year suspension of base driving privileges. In addition, if the officer had to get legal authorization to find out your BAC, even if it was under .05, you can still see your base driving privileges revoked for a year simply because you refused. If your BAC is above .08, the legal limit, your driving privileges can also be revoked on all military installations for one year.
Underage DUI's On Base
If you are underage and your BAC is anything above 0.0, you can be cited for underage drinking. Underage drinking in the Air Force or Army may result in an Article 15, and could result in forfeiture of pay, extra duty or reduction in rank. If charged with a DUI in the Marine Corps or Navy, at the minimum you may receive an NJP, which also could include forfeiture of pay and reduction in grade.
Aftermath: The Discretion of Your Unit
In all cases, at the end of the arrest process, you are usually released to your first sergeant (first shirt). Punishment will then be up to the discretion of your unit/squadron. At this point, penalties may vary. Many factors can come into play, such as your record prior to the DUI offense, or the comparative severity of your leadership. There is a chance for softer penalties if the squadron is dealing with a stellar record - although you will undoubtedly get "paperwork" for the offense (a loathsome word in Air Force parlance), there may be no loss of rank at all. By contrast, if the circumstances of the DUI were especially severe or you have a history of misconduct, you could face potential discharge.
If you are in the military and have been charged with a DUI in Muscogee County call our office for immediate help. Our Georgia DUI Defense Attorneys are ready to fight for your rights in the courtroom, utilizing defense tactics informed by over 20 years of litigation experience.