If you’re charged with a DUI on a military base, the usual rules don’t always apply, particularly if you’re a civilian. Although a DUI charge can yield a complex series of outcomes, which can vary depending upon the seriousness of the DUI (whether it falls into the category of a misdemeanor or a felony), a DUI on a military base is a unique problem. Moreover, you straddle the line between civilian, military, state and federal jurisdictions.
Following is an overview of what to expect if you have been charged with a DUI on a military base.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is a set of procedures and laws for the U.S. Military service members to abide by. Enacted in 1950, the UCMJ operates separately from civilian courts and functions to govern criminal issues, including larceny, murder, rape, and other charges, including DUI. If a member of the military is charged with a DUI on a military base, then he or she will likely be held accountable by the UCMJ.
However, as a civilian, you will not be held accountable by the UCMJ standards but instead will be prosecuted by the federal government. Any crime that takes place on the property of the US government will be tried in federal court, including a DUI.
It is further complicated if you are pulled over within the grounds of a national park. This can carry a $5,000 fine and result in up to six months in federal prison, depending upon the DUI. Typically, though, the case will be tried in federal court, but state laws will apply.
If your DUI occurs on a military base, other federal land, or your blood alcohol content level (BAC) is a .10% or more, your case will likely no longer be the purview of your state. This is because you have likely violated the Code of Federal Regulation (CFR), and your case will consequently be taken up by the federal courts.
The CFR covers broad subject areas of federal regulation, including when DUI is deemed a federal offense. For example, if you are a civilian employed on a military base, you will likely face additional consequences, including potentially being terminated from your job. You should discuss with your attorney what bearing (if any) the CFR might have on your case.
Although the military and civilian law branches are separate entities, they may work in tandem depending upon the circumstances. If you commit a crime on a military base, you are expected to follow the laws and regulations of that area. You are held accountable, and some military bases have a zero tolerance approach to anyone—military personnel or civilian—driving under the influence.
For example, in Fort Rucker, Ala. (a US Army post), if civilians are pulled over for a DUI, they will be “arrested and prosecuted in district court,” according to an article published on the US Army’s website.
Additionally, if you commit a DUI on a military base, you could be subjected to the same scrutiny common on civilian highways. A military police officer has the right to pull you over, administer a field sobriety test, and, if necessary, arrest you. As with a civilian police officer, if you refuse any tests, or fail to cooperate, this could result in additional charges and fines.
What to expect in court
When your DUI falls under federal jurisdiction, your case will likely be prosecuted by an Army JAG in state court. It is the Army JAG’s right to charge you under the Code of Federal Regulation with a Class B misdemeanor. A prosecution could carry with it up to six months in federal prison, fines up to $5,000, probation, or a loss of driving privileges for at least a year. Often, it’s a combination.
In short, although you are a civilian facing a possible federal DUI charge, it’s important to consult an experienced federal law attorney as soon as possible to help you prepare a strong defense.