Legal Actions that Military Personnel Can Face Due to a Criminal Offense

By on 12-03-2014 in Criminal Law

As opposed to desertion or abandonment of duty and other military-related crimes, a DUI offense is not an exclusive concern of Military courts even if the offense involves military personnel. And whenever members of the US armed forces get involved in criminal offenses, like DUI or domestic violence, the punishment is always more severe compared to their civilian counterparts.

Despite the fact that there is a zero tolerance policy for alcohol and drug-related offenses (this includes DUI offenses) in the US military, thousands of soldiers get charged with the anti drunk-driving law each year, especially while the soldier is on leave or between deployments. But, rather than due to any intent of violating the law, military personnel are often chanced upon by traffic enforcers while trying to drive safely back home after a few bottles of beer, alone or with friends, in an attempt to get over the stress and emotional pain caused by the war they fought in. This explains why, statistically, soldiers are found to be drinking more often than civilians.

Regardless of their reason for drinking, however, once caught, they will have to face the law like anybody else and, if convicted, will have to suffer punishment – a punishment that is actually considered more severe compared to a civilian charged and convicted because, besides the punishments pronounced in a civil court, they can also be discharged from service, ending their career in an instant.

Punishments for a military DUI actually depend on the authorities who will try and decide on the case; this depends, in turn, on the jurisdiction where the drunken driving incident occurred. If off a military installation, then the soldier is sure not to face a court martial as the civilian authorities or the state is the one that will surely file the DUI charge (a court martial may be imminent, though, if the civilian court acquits the soldier). The charged soldier’s commanding officer, however, can still take administrative actions, like corrective training, cancellation of pass privileges, or mandatory substance abuse treatment; it is also possible that the personnel would be charged by the military with a related crime, such as disorderly conduct.

If the arrest occurred inside the base, then the soldier will be charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and subject to both administrative actions and a court martial (though trial and decision is to be made by the military, the state has the authority to suspend the soldier’s license, require the installation of an interlock device inside his/her vehicle, or limit or revoke his/her driving privileges). The commanding officer can also decide to take either a punitive action or an administrative action (mentioned above) against the arrested soldier.

In a punitive action it is either is a:

  • Court martial, which can end in dismissal from service, imprisonment, grade reduction or forfeiture of pay
  • Non-judicial punishments (NJP), which are certain limited punishments for minor disciplinary offenses. An NJP proceeding is called “office hours” in the Marine Corps, “captain’s mast” or “mast” in the Coast Guard or Navy, and “Article 15” in the air Force and Army.

With the possibility of an ended military career, a service member cannot, but make sure that he/she gets an exceptional lawyer who will be able to make a very strong defense in his/her behalf. It is in this very area and concern that the military arrest attorneys of Flaherty Defense Firm have developed skills that can save military personnel from losing the life they have loved to live; thus, it will be highly advisable that, if charged with an offense whether on or off the base, the charged soldier contact one of them immediately.