As a member of the U.S. Military, you are probably very aware that with your position, comes greater professional and personal responsibility. With so many military bases across the state of Washington, service members are also regular fixtures in many local communities, but this can lead to complications if you are ever charged with a criminal offense, such as driving under the influence.
The consequences you face as a military member for a DUI are much more significant than those imposed on a civilian. With risks to your career and jail a real possibility, you’ll need someone fighting for you, who understands how these systems coincide and what legal defenses work for military members. At The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC, we know how important it is to address a military DUI charge quickly and will strive to obtain the best possible result.
If you’re a service member facing a DUI charge in the Tacoma area, call (253) 518-3643 today and schedule a free consultation with military DUI attorney Morgan Fletcher Benfield.
A lot Depends on Where You Were Stopped
If you are a civilian and you’re charged with a DUI, the process is complicated enough. For members of the military, DUIs have a whole new level of complexity. For instance, if you were charged while off base, your case will most likely be filed by the county or city prosecutor and treated as a misdemeanor in the normal civilian system with penalties like jail and fines depending on your BAC, the facts of the case, and your criminal history. Yet, punishments can also be handed down by the military system.
If you were arrested for DUI by the military police on base, your case will probably be handled by the U.S. District Court. You can also be charged through the military court martial procedure, which follows the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) instead of the state and federal laws that apply to civilians.
It is important to know that there are mandatory minimum sentences for a DUI conviction in the civilian system. These are based upon the level of the breath/blood test and whether there was a refusal to submit to testing. For a first offense DUI, if there was a breath or blood test and it was under a .15, a person would usually face up to 364 days with a mandatory minimum of 24 hours in jail, fines between $940.50 and $5,000, up to 60 months of probation, installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle, and a 90-day license suspension. These penalties become greater with increased BAC results as well as subsequent DUI offenses. However, by talking with a skilled military DUI attorney, there’s a lot that can be done for your case. Even where mandatory minimum jail sentences apply, don’t make the mistake of thinking your case is a lost cause. A good Military DUI lawyer can often get your case reduced to a lesser charge that has no mandatory minimum jail, or sometimes even get your case dismissed outright.
In addition to the civilian penalties, the military considers a first-time DUI to be a minor disciplinary offense or an Article 15 Non-Judicial Punishment. This is not the same as a criminal conviction, but it does appear on your service record and has harsh ramifications, such as:
- On Base Restrictions
- Loss of Leave
- Reduction / Forfeiture of Pay
- Reduced Rank
- Extra Duties
Depending on your position or circumstances, a DUI could also result in the following more severe outcomes:
- Substance Abuse Treatment
- Loss of Security Clearance
- Passed Over for Promotions
- Deployment Cancelation/Restrictions
- Dishonorable Discharge
What Happens to My License?
After a DUI arrest, your driver’s license will be automatically suspended for 90-days, pending a Department of Licensing (DOL) hearing, which will prohibit you from driving off base. While the DOL does not have official jurisdiction to bar you from driving on base as part of your military service, when your commanding officers become aware of your DUI, you will typically have these privileges revoked. This inability to operate vehicles can delay any upcoming deployments and create other administrative problems.
Can a Tacoma Military DUI Attorney Help?
As you can see, there’s a lot at stake for military members charged with a DUI in Washington. This does not mean you are out of options. A capable criminal defense attorney will take your case as seriously as you do, and will find ways to reduce the impact to your life and career. Even in cases that might seem lost on the surface, BAC results can be contested, Field Sobriety tests brought into question, and biological interferents pointed out.
You’ve worked hard to establish your military career and it is worth preserving. A skilled Military defense attorney will evaluate your situation for your odds of successfully reducing or dismissing the DUI charges against you.
If you’re a member of the armed services and have been charged with a DUI in the Tacoma area, attorney Morgan Fletcher Benfield is ready to defend you for a change. Call (253) 518-3643 to schedule a free and confidential consultation today.