Society often places higher expectations on members of the military to abide by the law. The fact is that military personnel are human just like everyone else, and they too can make mistakes. If the mistake is a DUI, the legal process and consequences that follow if found guilty will vary depending on the location where the DUI occurred. If you serve in the military and have been charged with any DUI-related violation in Bakersfield, you can contact the Koenig Law Office for legal counsel and defense.
Understanding DUI Laws in California
In California, it is unlawful to operate a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol if your BAC is at or above certain levels for different drivers (as shown below):
Under 21 Drivers
What happens if you are younger than the permitted drinking age of 21? There is a "zero-tolerance policy" in California. This implies that you'll face charges if you are pulled over for driving while intoxicated and your blood alcohol content level is at or over 0.01%.
Drivers Older than 21
Anyone over twenty-one who is driving while intoxicated and has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or greater can face DUI charges.
Drivers of Commercial Vehicle
Anybody who has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.04% or above and is operating a commercial motor vehicle while intoxicated can face DUI charges.
The following consequences could be imposed on anyone stopped for operating a vehicle while intoxicated:
- The Department of Motor Vehicles may choose to revoke or suspend your driver's license
- A $1,000 maximum fine
- Motor vehicle seizure
- A maximum prison term of 6 months
- Community service
- Treatment for substance abuse as ordered by the court
- Informal probation
- for at least four months
Understanding the consequences of drunk driving on a military base is essential if you're an ordinary citizen who works on base, if you stay with a service member, or if you are visiting somebody on base. Federal courts are involved in cases involving civilians who are stopped for drunk driving on military bases. Arrests for driving under the influence made on a military post are not subject to state authority.
Military DUI Under California Law
A military DUI occurs when a military personnel is detained for operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol. When this happens, the military personnel could be subject to civilian criminal prosecution as well as military disciplinary proceedings for similar conduct for which they were found responsible by the military.
The Military’s Stance on DUI Violations
When it comes to drug and alcohol charges, the US military takes a far harder approach than civilian authorities. For example, a civilian could face lesser consequences for the first DUI offense, but the military enforces a zero-tolerance policy and will penalize a first-time DUI offender as severely as a habitual offender.
Alcohol-related violations are punished severely in the US Marine Corps, perhaps because they are more common in this distinguished military unit. The United States Marine Corps has been working to address the issue since December 2012, when it was stated that all Marines will undergo two random urinalysis tests per year.
If a member's urine test comes back positive, they will be required to undergo counseling if their BAC is at or above 0.01% and face disciplinary action if it's at or above 0.02%.
DUI Charge Off-Base
A member of the military must navigate two sets of authorities: those of the military and those of civilian society. If a law enforcement official accuses you of driving under the influence while off base, the matter will be heard in a civil court. If convicted under such conditions, you will be subject to the following consequences:
They consist of fines, potential jail time, and different non-custodial penalties. The severity of these punishments will change depending on any past convictions or aggravating circumstances at the moment of the detention.
The outcome of each case will depend on its unique facts, although the most important step to averting such punishments is to hire an experienced civilian DUI defense attorney who will put up a strong defense and work to get your case dismissed.
The DMV could impose fines or other sanctions for DUI-related offenses by itself or at the court's order. Your license to drive could be revoked or suspended as part of these sanctions. The term of any such suspension or revocation will be determined by factors like whether or not it's your first offense and if or not your conviction resulted from a court proceeding.
Other possible punishments include community service, participation in an alcohol awareness program, or the mandated installation of an Ignition Interlock Device, a device that prevents drunk driving. The military cannot pursue trial for that offense once you have been prosecuted in civil court.
DUI Charge on Military Base
If you have been arrested for DUI while on base, the military authorities will prosecute you under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice. Also, the military has the authority to bring charges that the regular court fails to bring. The following are examples of possible penalties according to the UCMJ:
Your commanding officer could conduct an investigation or hearing proceeding and, based on the seriousness of the crime, impose reprimand, more duties, penalties, and restrictions.
This could come about as a consequence of a court-martial procedure and involve fines, detention, or even termination. Your commandant still has the right to conduct administrative proceedings against you, regardless of whether or not you are facing charges in civilian court.
This could involve a written warning, the withdrawal of pass benefits, admission to a rehabilitation course, training, a drop in status, and a reenlistment bar. As a result, you must hire a criminal defense attorney if you are accused of driving under the influence in California to protect your military reputation and show that you are not guilty.
Penalties that Can Be Imposed in Civil Court
You'll also be subject to criminal consequences if you're found guilty of DUI in criminal court and aren't eligible for the Military Diversion program. These consequences depend on the circumstances of the matter and if you possess any past DUI offenses. However, penalties often consist of:
- Administrative license suspension or revocation by the Department of Motor Vehicles
- If you're over 21 and your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% or more, you will be suspended for 4 months for your very first offense and a year for the second or consecutive offenses
- You will lose your driving rights for one year if you're under the age of 21 and your blood alcohol level was 0.01 percent or higher
- Regardless of how old you are, you could face a suspension of one year for refusing to submit to a DUI test. You will face a suspension for two years for a second refusal within 10 years, and a suspension for 3 years would follow for a third refusal within 10 year
- Vehicle seizure and impoundment
- $1,000 in court fines
- A six-month maximum county jail term
- Installing an ignition interlock device
- Summary probation
- Participation in the victim panel for Mothers Against Drunk Driving
- Participation in the Hospital & Morgue program
- Substance abuse therapy as mandated by the court
- Community service
- Working long hours for CalTrans, sometimes cleaning up trash along freeways and highways
The severity of these punishments can vary depending on prior offenses or aggravating circumstances.
Military Diversion Program
California's Military Diversion program could have your DUI case dropped entirely if you're a current or former military member and have been charged with a DUI misdemeanor in a California court. In essence, this diversion program enables active duty personnel as well as veterans to get their misdemeanor charges delayed while completing the diversion program. The charges are dropped upon completion.
If you have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, sexual trauma, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or another mental health problem as a result of your service in the military, and you complete the program proposed by a medical expert and authorized by the judge, you could be qualified for the diversion program and dismissal.
Although many people find the program to be extremely helpful, it's not fit for everyone, and regrettably, the majority of civilians along with military defense attorneys don't seem to understand this. For instance, your involvement in the program could continue to be used in court to impose military penalties like a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand. Additionally, it could still be utilized to decline or withdraw security clearances. Diversionary discharges are not viewed in the same light as outright discharges or not-guilty verdicts.
As a result, no one solution works for everyone in this situation. An experienced military DUI attorney will not take the convenient route out, even though the majority of civilian defense attorneys routinely let military personnel into the program. Instead, they will carefully examine and defend your case, present strong arguments, and attempt to get the charges entirely dismissed or secure a not-guilty verdict.
Defending a Military Personnel Against a Civilian DUI
If you're facing a DUI charge in a civilian court, the military won't help you with legal representation. Therefore, it is crucial to choose a skilled Bakersfield military DUI attorney.
Military personnel also exist in two different worlds, one governed by the armed forces while the other controlled by civil authorities. You should understand that even though the criminal charges against you for DUI are dropped in a civilian court, you could still face consequences in the military.
The UCMJ Article 113 states that even though the criminal case against a serving service member is dropped, they could still be subject to a court martial for drunk driving. Anyone who carelessly, wantonly, or when intoxicated controls an automobile, aircraft, or watercraft physically is subject to a military court.
This implies that your superiors could choose to punish you after you have been taken to a civilian court, regardless of whether your charges for drunk driving are dropped, or you're found not guilty.
You should therefore take charge of the situation as soon as possible.
Legal Defenses to a Military DUI
Many legal defenses exist for anyone accused of driving under the influence in the military, and the majority of the defenses originate from constitutional protections that are often disregarded by law enforcement.
Before pulling over your automobile, a police officer must have a good basis to believe that you were violating the law, generally the State's Vehicle Code, by for example speeding, swerving, disregarding turn signals, or even having tinted windows.
After pulling you over, the law enforcement officer will administer field sobriety tests to determine how you respond. The NHTSA-approved tests consist of:
- Walk and turn test
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN)
- One-leg stand test
The "Romberg" test, which involves having you shut your eyes and look up, then mentally count up to 30, is another test that is occasionally employed, although it has not been approved by the NHTSA.
The law enforcement officer will watch you as he or she explains the tests. An officer could assume that you're impaired by alcohol if you fail the tests, smell strongly of alcohol, or have flushed cheeks or bloodshot eyes.
Your attorney could be able to get your charges lowered or dropped altogether if he or she can prove that the police had no sufficient reason to stop you or if there was a lack of probable cause for your arrest.
The Appropriate Procedures for Testing Were Not Followed
Different regulations specify how trained individuals and law enforcement officers are to carry out regular field sobriety tests (FSTs) and breath and blood testing. Additionally, there are specifications for testing and breathalyzer machines and preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) equipment.
Failing to comply with these protocols and procedures can lead to the invalidation of the test findings and could also be used to cast doubt on the arresting officer's credibility.
Infringement on Your Rights
If you're arrested for driving under the influence, you are legally entitled to several rights, and if these rights are infringed, the charges would be dropped or reduced as a result. For example:
- If you are arrested, you should be notified of your Miranda rights before any interrogation begins
- You should be given the option to submit to a breathalyzer test or a blood test, and if you decline, you should be informed of the legal repercussions
- If you submit to breath testing at the law enforcement agency, you should be given the option to get a blood sample for subsequent independent analysis by your military DUI attorney
Inaccurate Results from Tests
Many factors can lead to errors in chemical test findings. For instance, a breathalyzer machine that's not frequently calibrated can generate unreliable readings. Additionally, the results from a breathalyzer test can be affected by oral alcohol from the food you could have had and by specific medical conditions. Even a simple burp can affect the reading.
There are a lot of things a DUI defense attorney should consider to effectively represent you. They should also investigate every route that could lead to a strong defense.
To fully assess your case, we consider the following factors:
- Getting a confidential oral or written account from you documenting everything that took place the night of the detention, beginning with your first drink and finishing with the last interaction with the law enforcement officer
- Reviewing the officer's report and criminal complaint
- Prior DUI convictions
- Figuring out if the law enforcement official has a good reason to pull you over
- Examining footage from the body-worn camera and the dashboard camera
- Identifying any potential problems with the search and seizure
- Examining the field sobriety test that was administered thoroughly
- Reviewing any statements you made to the interrogating law enforcement officers
- If the right steps were taken before, during, and after the breathalyzer and blood test
Will a DUI Cause Your Expulsion from the Military?
Yes, a DUI can result in dismissal from the military. In recent years, it has become more typical for first-time DUI convictions to result in the termination of your career. However, if it happens again for a second or subsequent time in the future, you'll likely be forced to spend time away from your career.
Furthermore, while each department handles DUI charges differently, if you're a Petty officer, NCO, or a police officer, your odds of being dismissed for a first-time DUI offense are substantially higher than if you were a lower-ranking enlisted military member. Other factors can also increase your chances of being discharged from the military for such a crime. For instance, the likelihood of getting expelled from service is substantially lower during wartime than it is in non-conflict situations.
Your DUI will probably result in a loss of pay grade, demotion, confinement to the military base, and temporary disqualification from future promotions. As a result, even while a DUI would not result in dismissal from the military, it will undoubtedly affect your pay grade, rank, and military career.
Find a Military DUI Defense Lawyer Near Me
Driving under the influence (DUI) is a multi-layered offense under California law. Additionally, the punishments differ significantly from case to case depending on your prior DUI convictions and aggravating factors. Another consideration in DUI-related accusations is whether the person being detained is a military member or a civilian.
You should understand that even if the DUI charges brought against you are withdrawn, you could still be subject to military consequences. Therefore, you should take charge of your case right now because you can't afford to wait. Get in touch with our attorneys at Koenig Law Office in Bakersfield so that we can start formulating an ideal defense strategy against your DUI accusations and any potential military repercussions. Call us today at 661-793-7222.