Penalties for a Military DUI

Since our law firm is located in Orange County, not far from San Diego where there is a large military presence, we get our share of calls from service men and women who were arrested for driving under the influence (DUI). Every day, service members come to Orange County to visit. They also pass through while heading to Los Angeles or Hollywood on the 405 or 5 freeways.

Due to the fact that Orange County is between LA and San Diego counties, service members from Fort Irwin, Camp Pendleton, and San Diego’s Navy bases find themselves driving through OC regularly. For this reason, it’s not unheard of for us to get a call from a service member who was arrested for DUI on one of Orange County’s freeways, or while visiting a local hot spot, like Laguna or Newport Beach.


What is the difference between a military DUI and a civilian DUI? A military DUI occurs when a uniformed member of the Armed Forces is arrested for drunk or drugged driving on a military property, such as a base. In this situation, the service member is charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

If civilian law enforcement conducts a DUI arrest off-base or off military property, the service member will face DUI charges under state law. The term "military DUI" is most applicable when law enforcement conducts a DUI arrest on a military base. So, the difference between a military DUI and a civilian DUI is straightforward. It all depends on the location of the arrest.

Military DUI Charges

If you are arrested for a military DUI, you will be charged with drunk driving under 10 U.S.C. §911: US Code - Section 911: Art. 111., which deals with drunk driving and reckless driving. Unlike state law, the statute applies to vehicles, vessels, and aircraft.

Under state law, you are legally "under the influence" when your BAC exceeds .08%. Military code also gives military court the discretion to lower this DUI threshold for a specific case. In other words, you can face military penalties for DUI even if chemical tests show that your blood alcohol concentration was less than .08%.

If a service member is arrested for drunk driving on a military base, he or she will not face civilian legal penalties; however, the DMV can initiate non-criminal penalties such as license suspension.

What are the consequences of military DUI?

Military DUI is punishable by courts-martial and a variety of other serious consequences, including:

  • Fines
  • Incarceration
  • Dishonorable discharge
  • Loss of military pension
  • Corrective Training
  • Loss of security clearance
  • Letter of reprimand

While some of these penalties may seem harsh, military code gives commanding officers almost complete discretion to implement whatever punishment they see fit.

Are you in the Armed Forces and facing DUI charges? Contact the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. to protect your rights and your future!

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