Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol will pose a significant danger not only to the driver but also to other road users. California DUI laws are stringent on DUI offenders and impose severe penalties upon a conviction. Society generally places higher expectations for military personnel to follow the rules. A military DUI occurs when an active duty military member is arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. When this happens, you will face both civilian charges and military punitive measures. The penalties you receive for this offense will depend on where the DUI occurred. If you are arrested and charged with military DUI, an attorney from Orange County DUI Defense Lawyer can help you secure the best outcome for your situation.

Overview of Military DUI

In California, it is illegal to drive while intoxicated with alcohol or drugs. If you are under the age of twenty-one years, California has a zero-tolerance policy. If you are arrested with a blood alcohol content level of 0.01% or higher, you can be convicted for underage DUI. For drivers over the age of twenty-one years, the BAC legal limit is 0.08%. Also, a commercial driver will face Commercial DUI charges for operating a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04%.

If you get convicted for driving under the influence of drugs, you will face severe penalties, including:

  • Confiscation of your motor vehicle
  • A jail or prison sentence depending on the circumstances of your case and your criminal history
  • Court fines of up to $10,000
  • Probation 
  • A court-imposed DUI School enrollment
  • Administrative suspension or revocation of your driver’s license by the Department of Motor Vehicle

In California, not all DUI charges are treated the same. The penalties you get after a conviction will depend on your age, the type of driver’s license you hold as well as your criminal history.

Military DUI takes place when a member of the military is arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Driving under the influence could occur both in the military base and outside the base. When you commit an offense of driving while intoxicated, you will face both civilian and criminal charges and military punitive measures. California has strict laws on drunk driving for civilians and more stringent laws on the members of the military. This is because these individuals are held in high regard by society.

If you are a member of the army and get convicted for driving under the influence, your military career may be affected by the conviction. A simple first offense conviction can ruin all the hard work you have put in your career in military service. This is because you can get a dishonorable discharge, which military members work to avoid at all costs. Being in the military brings along a lot of benefits to your life, including a good record as well as future career opportunities.

Military courts will handle most offenses committed by military members. However, depending on where the arrest took place, DUI cases can be tried and convicted in civilian courts. If both civilian and military authorities file the DUI case, the two courts will meet up to determine the cause of action to be taken on you. In some cases, a military DUI offense will face both military and civilian penalties. The military always has authority over offenses committed by their members, but when crimes are committed outside the base, civilian courts may take action. If you are facing military DUI charges, it is crucial to seek legal representation.

Military DUI Out of the Base

As a military service member, you live in two worlds, one controlled by the military due to your job and the other controlled by civilian authorities. If a civilian police officer arrests you while off the base, your Military DUI case. A conviction in the civilian court will attract the following penalties:

  1. Criminal Penalties

Some of the criminal penalties that accompany a conviction for military DUI will include fines, jail or prison sentences, and other non-custodial sentences. The severity of the penalties will depend on the aggravating factors at the time of the arrest. Also, your criminal history may affect your military DUI case. It is essential to enlist the help of a knowledgeable DUI defense attorney to guide you through the situation.

  1. Administrative Penalties 

After an arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the California Department of Motor Vehicle will be notified. On its authority or by order of the court, the DMV will take action on your driving Privileges. Everyone who operates a motor vehicle on the roads in California is expected to obey DMV regulations. After an arrest for military DUI, your license will be confiscated. You will have ten days to request a hearing with the DMV. 

If you fail to request a hearing, your driver’s license will be automatically suspended for four months. At the hearing, you can be able to present your defense to your case and contest the testimonies brought against you. At the end of the trial, you can either lose or win the case. If you win the DMV hearing, the suspicion of your license will be put on hold, awaiting the outcome of your military DUI case.

On the other hand, a loss in the hearing will cause suspension of your driving privileges in California. It is vital to have competent legal representation by your side. When the verdict of your criminal case is given, you can also get a driver’s license suspension. Even after winning the DMV hearing, a conviction in the criminal case can trigger a suspension. This is because your criminal case is handled separately from the hearing by the Department of Motor Vehicle. However, if DUI criminal charges against you are dismissed, you may escape DMV driver’s license suspension

  1. Additional Penalties

If you are arrested for military DUI off the base and tried in a civilian trial, you are likely to be subjected to civilian penalties. A conviction in your military DUI criminal case may require you to enroll in an alcohol education program. Also, you may be required to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) that monitors the alcohol in your breathe before you start the vehicle. When you are charged for military DUI in a civilian court, the military cannot prosecute you for the same offense.

Military DUI on the Base

If you are a service member and get arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol on the base, you will be charged under Article 111 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). In this case, you will be subjected to administrative action and that from the court-martial. If the military charges you, you will not be subjected to civilian criminal charges. However, you will still face administrative penalties imposed by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

  1. A Non-Judicial Punishment

Depending on the severity of the DUI offense, you may be subjected to:

  • Mandatory substance abuse treatment - If you are charged with DUI on the base, you will be required to enroll in a substance abuse program and receive counseling. The period in which you have to attend the program will depend on the circumstances of your case and your criminal history
  • Extra duty - As a sanction for driving under the influence of drugs in the military base, you may be assigned additional duties and work longer hours even during the weekend
  • A formal reprimand letter - A letter of reprimand contains all the details of the offense you committed and the punishment you received. The reprimand letter will enter your military record. This could deter your chances of receiving a promotion or getting contract renewal
  1. Judicial Punishment

Judicial punishment results from court-martial proceedings. The following are some punishments you will receive from driving under the influence of alcohol in a military base:

  • Loss of rank - Loss of Rank or demotion is a collective punishment for service members who are convicted of DUI. In this case, any promotion you may have received over the years of your service will be taken away
  • Reduction of pay grade - When charged in the martial court, a military DUI can cause a decrease in your pay grade. This means that you will receive less pay as compared to what you were earned before committing the offense
  • Dishonorable discharge from the military - Numerous benefits come with being in the military. A dishonorable discharge is not something to be taken lightly, and most service members work hard to avoid. If you receive a dishonorable discharge for military DUI, you will lose your military benefits

Whether the offense is committed on or off the base, military DUI attracts severe penalties. Also, you may be charged with DUI related crimes. Therefore, it is essential to contact a knowledgeable DUI attorney as soon as you get arrested for this offense.

Possible Defenses for a Military DUI 

Whether the military tries you in a court-martial or civilian court, there are potential defenses you can preset for a fair trial in a military DUI case:

Lack of Probable Cause for Alarm

You can be arrested for DUI at DUI checkpoints or after an accident. However, before stopping your car to make an arrest, the officer needs probable cause to indicate you were driving under the influence. Some of the indicators of DUI that can prompt a traffic officer to arrest you include:

  • Over speeding
  • Swerving from lane to lane
  • Avoiding the red lights
  • Failure to yield the right way

After the arrest, the officer will perform a field sobriety test to observe your behavior, after which they could conclude that you are intoxicated. Having a flashy face, red eyes, or having alcohol in your breath can be signs of alarm to make an officer believe that you were driving under the influence of alcohol. If your attorney can show that there was no probable cause for the officer to arrest you, your DUI charges may be reduced or dismissed.

The Right Procedure was not Followed When Carrying out the Tests

Before you are arrested for driving under the influence of drugs, you are likely to undergo field sobriety tests, blood, and breath tests. Some laws govern how these tests are carried out. An arresting officer is required to observe you for a minimum of fifteen minutes for the field sobriety test. Most officers may skip this process ad move right to the Breathalyzer test, which is not right.

When carrying out the chemical tests, a properly trained individual should be the one doing it. The tests should be administered and appropriately handled. Also, you should not be coerced into taking the tests. If any of the regulations are violated, the results cannot be used against you in the DUI case. A competent DUI attorney can use the failure to follow one rule as a basis to put the whole testimony of the arresting officer in question.

Your Rights were Violated During the Arrest

If you are arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and tried in a court-martial, your rights and the DUI case are equally important. Some of your rights include getting an explanation of why you were arrested. Also, you have the right to refuse chemical tests. However, the arresting officer should inform you of the consequences of failing to take the tests. If you choose to keep quiet in an attempt to avoid self-incrimination, you should not be coerced to speak. Violation of these rights during the arrest and martial court proceedings could be a basis of finding fault in your case. Your attorney can take advantage of that to have your case dismissed, or your military DUI charges lessened.

The Inaccuracy of the Test Results

Numerous factors can cause an error in the chemical test results. A Breathalyzer machine that does not get regularly checked can give wrong results. Also, mouth alcohol resulting from foods you may have eaten may be detected in the Breathalyzer results. The officer needs to correctly guide you about how to blow into the device since the results of this test depend on deep lung air. 

If you have a medical condition such as diabetes and you believe the high BAC resulted from this condition, you can use this as a defense in your case. Chemical results are a significant piece of evidence in a DUI case. By creating doubt in the credibility of the results, you will have a chance to fight the charges brought against you.

Military Diversion for DUI in California

Under California Penal Code 1001.80, military diversion is a program available as an alternative to jail for military members. If you are an active military member facing a misdemeanor DUI charge, you can apply for a military diversion. If you are charged with DUI, you do not need to plead guilty or no contest to get a diversion in California. The judge postpones your case while you participate in a treatment and education program.

If you complete the program, your charges will be dismissed. Also, you can get your criminal record sealed. However, failure to complete the program could trigger the resumption of the criminal process. Not all military members will qualify for DUI diversion. You may be eligible for this program if you suffer any of the following in your military service:

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD is a mental health condition experienced by individuals who have been through traumatic experiences such as combat. However, not all people who undergo these situations will have PTSD. Sometimes you may experience symptoms lasting a few weeks, which is known as Acute Stress Disorder. When these symptoms last longer and affect the way you function, then you can claim to be suffering from PTSD.

You are at a high risk of post-traumatic stress disorder if you have experienced childhood abuse or extreme conditions in which people in military service are exposed. Some of the symptoms that accompany this condition include recurring flashbacks and dreams, as well as frightening thoughts. Also, you may find yourself staying away from events and places that remind you of what you have been through. If you can prove that you had PTSD at the time you committed a DUI offense, you can get a military diversion.

Traumatic Brain Injury

TBI is a cognitive impairment that results from trauma to the head. You can suffer traumatic brain injury from a bullet penetrating the brain tissue or serious impact by a hard object on the head. For military personnel, explosions are a common cause of TBI. When excessive pressure passes through the brain, your brain function may get disrupted. 

TBI can be evident from physical symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and loss of coordination. The signs will appear a few days after the occurrence of the event. Also, you may suffer emotional and cognitive problems such as:

  • Loss of memory
  • Problems learning new skills
  • Poor judgment
  • Difficulties in decision making and problem-solving
  • Poor judgment

If you are charged with military DUI after a traumatic brain injury, you can use this as a basis to apply for a military diversion.

Military Sexual Trauma

Military sexual trauma is psychological trauma resulting from physical abuse, sexual assault, or sexual harassment which occurred while on duty. Some of the acts which fall within the military scope of sexual trauma may include:

  • Forced oral copulation
  • Rape
  • Sexual battery
  • Coerced sex
  • Groping
  • Unwelcome sexual advances

Regardless of whether you are on or off duty at the time of harassment, you may be eligible for a military diversion for your DUI.

Your lawyer will request a diversion from the court, which they will accept or deny after an assessment. If the court grants you diversion, you will be played in pretrial, and your criminal proceedings will be postponed while you get treatment. The court could either place you in a community based or federal service program. The court will collaborate with the department of veterans to ensure you get maximum benefits.

If you are assigned to a diversion program, you will be required to comply with the conditions imposed by the diversion program and the court. The terms may include:

  • Mandatory attendance to treatment sessions
  • Random testing for alcohol and other drugs
  • Counseling for violence and substance abuse
  • A satisfactory report on your progress from the agency offering the program

A military diversion program for your military DUI may last from twelve to twenty-four months. However, it is essential to understand that the program can be terminated if you are not benefiting from the treatment. Also, if from the report, your performance is not satisfactory, the diversion program will be terminated, and your criminal proceeding will resume.

After satisfactory completion of the military diversion program, the criminal charges against you will get dismissed. The records of the DUI arrest will not be used to deny you a job opportunity, certificate, or license in the future.

It is essential to understand that a military diversion for your DUI will not affect the decision of the DMV to suspend your driver’s license. If you are hoping to get a military diversion for a DUI offense to evade a conviction in the civilian or court-martial, you will require competent legal guidance. 

Fight Military DUI Charges with Legal Guidance from a DUI Defense Lawyer Near Me

You will be arrested and charged with DUI if you operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration that exceeds the legal limit. Getting a DUI as a member of the military is a more serious offense compared to regular DUI. A conviction for military DUI imposes both criminal penalties and military penalties, which can affect your work. However, getting arrested does not mean you will get convicted. A successful defense can help reduce the penalties or possibly cause dismissal of your case. The wisest thing to do for your situation is contacting a DUI defense attorney as soon as you get arrested. We invite you to contact the Orange County DUI Defense Lawyer team at 714-820-9592 from any location in Orange County, CA.