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San Diego Military DUI Attorneys



DUI Defense for Members of the Military

It is not surprising that military members are more often charged with DUIs than civilians. They are sent away from their families and friends, regularly face tough situations, and have constant stress. Even after they leave the military, they have to readjust to civilian life, a battle that too many of them lose. Not only are there more DUIs in the military, but the penalties can also be more severe, possibly even costing someone a career.

If you have been charged with a military DUI in Vista or San Diego County, it is important to work with a skilled DUI defense team. At jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys, we have an in-depth understanding of local and federal DUI courts in San Diego and North County. Our lead San Diego military DUI defense attorney is a Certified Criminal Law Specialist and well-versed at defending clients in serious DUI cases. We can explain your rights in a free confidential consultation, develop a strong defense, and advocate for your freedom. Call us today at (760) 630-2000 to get started on your defense.

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The Military’s Stance on DUI Charges

The United States military has a much stricter stance on drug and alcohol offenses than local law enforcement. For instance, while a civilian may have lesser penalties levied for a first-time DUI offense, the military has zero tolerance and will punish a first-time offender just as heavily as repeat offenders.

The United States Marine Corps, in particular, is very strict about alcohol-related offenses; this may be because these offenses are more prevalent in this elite military unit. The Marine Corps has been attempting to correct the problem since December 2012, when they announced that every Marine - all 190,000+ service members - would be subjected to two random urine tests every year. Should a urine test come back as positive for alcohol, there will be mandatory counseling for those with 0.01% blood alcohol content - and disciplinary action for those with a blood alcohol content of 0.02% or greater.

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Military DUIs and Jurisdiction

There are some military crimes that the military has complete jurisdiction over. Adultery, desertion, and unauthorized absence are a few examples of this. But that is not the case for DUIs. The military will have jurisdiction (or not) based on where the incident took place.

If the DUI took place on a military base, the service member can be charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). He or she may face court martial and administrative actions. The state attorney may choose to suspend the service member’s driver’s license, require the service member to use an interlocking device in his or her vehicle, and impose other non-criminal penalties. However, the state attorney does not have the jurisdiction to impose penalties such as jail time and alcohol treatment programs.

If a service member is arrested and charged with a DUI while not on base, he or she will face criminal charges in a civilian court. This can include suspension of a driver’s license, heavy fines, mandatory attendance at an alcohol treatment program, and jail time. Although the incident did not happen within the military’s jurisdiction, the military may press separate DUI charges against a service member once the civilian court case has concluded, or they may press other charges such as disorderly conduct.

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Civilian DUIs on Military Bases

Following a civilian DUI arrest on a military base, a federal prosecutor may choose to treat your charges as a federal DUI. Military bases are treated as federal land under the law, meaning federal prosecutors have the jurisdiction to charge you in a federal court. These charges can also occur on other federal land, such as national parks, national monuments, and federal buildings in San Diego County.

Federal charges are more difficult to beat then state charges. Federal courts employ experienced and skilled prosecutors to handle DUI cases and can bring swift punishments down on defendants. Beating a federal DUI charge requires the expertise of a knowledgeable attorney who is not afraid to represent your case in a federal court.

The legal definition of a federal DUI is outlined under U.S. Code of Federal Regulations 36 CFR § 4.23 as:

  • Operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs in an unsafe manner; or
  • Operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least 0.08%.

The penalties for a federal DUI are similar to standard DUI cases and are also consider priorable, meaning repeat offenders may face additional punishments. A first-time offender can face a class B misdemeanor, which includes up to six months in a federal prison, five years of informal probation, a license suspension, and a maximum fine of $5,000.

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Penalties for a Members of the Military

In addition to civilian penalties that may be incurred if a DUI happened off base, there is a good chance that the service member will at some point face military penalties as well, including punitive actions or administrative actions.

Punitive actions include appearing before a court martial. This may result in forfeiture of pay, grade reduction, imprisonment, or dismissal from the military. A service member may also face non-judicial punishments such as Office Hours or Captain’s Mast.

Administrative actions can vary greatly. They may include a letter of reprimand, having a pass or driving privileges revoked, corrective training such as taking a course on military laws for the second time, reduction in grades for those of certain ranks, and being banned from reenlisting. Administrative actions often also include treatment for substance abuse. Those who have two serious DUIs or other alcohol-related offenses may be dishonorably discharged.

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Working With a Skilled DUI Defense Lawyer

Being charged with a federal DUI or a military DUI can drastically impact your life. You may be sentenced to jail, have to pay thousands of dollars in fines, and lose your license. For members of the military, the consequences can also include serious administrative and career penalties. It is important to work with an experienced attorney who understands how these cases are prosecution and what options you can pursue to protect your freedom.

If you have been charged with a DUI in civilian court (including the Vista court, Chula Vista court, San Diego court, or El Cajon court) , contact an experienced local attorney at jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys. We can help get the charges lowered or reduced so you can continue with your career. Contact us at (760) 630-2000 and you will not fight these charges alone.

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