What is Military DUI?
Members of the armed forces are governed by military laws/justice. Most states have distinct rules that govern the conduct of their military members. These laws are usually stricter than the standard laws that are used to regulate civilians. In some States, special judicial arrangements are used to enforce those laws, but in other States, the civilian legal system applies. Most of the laws that are unique to military members are those that are meant to maintain good order and discipline, among them military DUI laws.
The state of California is quite hard on DUI as a way to discourage drunk driving on its public roads. DUI laws can be quite complicated for the civilians, but when it comes to the military members, the laws become more complex. This could be because law enforcers and the society, in general, place high expectations on the military personnel to follow the already set laws. However, the reality is quite different, and many military members, just like other human beings, make mistakes from time to time.
Other than the DUI laws used to govern civilians, military members have other special rules that will apply to any member of the armed forces who are found guilty of drunk driving. Among these special laws is Military Diversion Program, which allows both veterans and serving military members to have any criminal misdemeanor charges levied against them, placed on hold until they finish a diversion program. Once they complete the program, all the criminal charges they were facing will be dropped and treated as if the service-men were never arrested in the first place.
These special laws favor the military people greatly, but only those that are facing criminal charges such as DUI. However, even though the diversion program sounds like a good idea, DUI is a severe offense in the army and could see you facing severe penalties, among them dismissal from the force. That is why the help of an experienced DUI attorney is necessary if you are an army or a veteran, and you have been arrested for DUI.
Penalties for Military DUI
When a military member in California commits a DUI offense, the process of trying the alleged offender and the resulting consequences once he/she is convicted will be primarily determined by where the crime was committed.
DUI Committed on a Military Base
If a military member is charged with DUI on an army camp, they will be tried through the authority of The Uniformed Code of Military Justice, abbreviated as UCMJ. Also, the military can charge you for other offense(s) that the civilian court may overlook. Under UCMJ, a DUI offender could face the following penalties:
- Judicial punishment- resulting from a court-martial proceeding. This could include payment of fines, imprisonment, or even dismissal from the force.
- Non-judicial punishment- resulting from an inquiry or a hearing chaired by the offender's commanding officer. This punishment is issued out depending on the severity of the offense. The offender may get reprimanded, restrictions, additional duties, and payment of fines.
Note that your commanding officer will always have the authority to impose administrative action against you even if a civilian court is charging you. The kind of punishment you could get from your commanding officer may include referring you to a treatment program, rank reduction, a written reprimand, training, and removal of your pass privileges as well as a bar to enlistment. For this reason, you need the best DUI attorney by your side, to help prove your innocence or to help you negotiate for reduced charges.
DUI Committed off the Military Base
Two sets of authorities govern military members: the civilian and military authorities. While out of the station, an army member could commit a crime, like a DUI offense. When this happens, he/she will be arrested by the officer and charged for DUI off the base and in a civilian court. If found guilty, the military officer could face the penalties below:
- Criminal punishments: this could include serving time in a prison or jail, fines, and any other non-custodial sentence. Just like a standard DUI charge by a civilian, the seriousness of the penalties this military officer will face will be determined by their prior convictions and any aggravating factors that could have been present at the moment of their arrest.
- Administrative punishments: every DUI offense that is committed in California carries administrative penalties from DMV. DMV could administer such penalties on its authority or through a court order. These penalties could include suspension or revocation of your driving license. The amount of time your license will be suspended or revoked will depend mainly on your prior DUI convictions. First-time offenders may not have to wait long to drive again, but 3rd and subsequent offenders may lose their driving privileges for good.
Offenders could also get probation, be ordered to enroll in an education program or be required to install an ignition lock device in their vehicle. After you have been convicted in a civilian court, the military may be unable to charge you with the same offense.
Other Penalties for Military DUI
Like earlier mentioned, military DUI is a serious offense, and so, penalties could be many and more severe if you are found guilty. The penalties an offender gets from his/her commanding officer will vary depending on their specific branch and their rank. If you have a prior DUI conviction or other related convictions, you can expect to get more penalties in number and severity. Other military DUI penalties an offender can expect, include:
- A negative report on your performance
- Mandatory requirement for evaluation and/or treatment for alcohol and substance abuse
- Monetary Fines
- Limited access to your base
- Loss of security clearances
- Loss of pension rights
- A pay-cuts or demotion
- A dishonorable discharge from the force
The Military Diversion Program
The military diversion program in California is meant to give a second chance to serving and veteran military members who are facing serious criminal charges in the state. If you are facing DUI charges and you have served, or you are serving the country's armed forces, you could be eligible for this type of program and others that are meant to keep your criminal record clear of any convictions. To qualify into these programs, you need to work alongside an attorney who understands the availability of the programs. This way, you might be able to avoid any criminal conviction.
In California, the military diversion program is provided under Section 1001.80 of the State’s Penal Code. Through this program, an active military officer or a veteran can apply for the diversion of their pre-plea. The program is mainly an alternative to a criminal conviction.
The accused should have been arrested for a misdemeanor or should be facing a combination of misdemeanor charges to qualify for the military diversion program. The defendant should also be a serving military officer or a former officer. Additionally, he/she must be suffering from a condition such as post-traumatic stress disorder, sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, drugs or alcohol abuse, and other mental health issues that could have resulted from their involvement in the crime.
Before the defendant is admitted into the program, they will be required to waive their right to a quick hearing and should give consent to be enrolled in the diversion program.
Note that this program will not admit any military officer who has gone through the same or similar program previously.
Military DUI is a severe form of DUI offense that can affect your career, finances, and many other aspects of your life.
While military members face more punishments for a DUI than regular civilians, they can still be eligible to enroll in diversion programs, such as the military diversion program, to give them a second chance.
Attorney Ross Howell Sobel understands that servicemen and veterans, who are alleged to have committed a DUI crime, deserve proper legal representation in fighting DUI charges. With experience in handling complex DUI cases for residents of San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles, Attorney Ross Howell is ready to evaluate your case and help you through this difficult time.
Call The Law Offices of Ross Howell Sobel at 818-582-2350 today!