As a member of the armed forces, if you are arrested for drunk driving on or off a military base, you may be charged with a military DWI. Although DWI cases are normally handled by the municipal courts, a military DWI may fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Military, depending on where the offense occurred.
The Effects of a Military DWI Depend on Where it Occurred
If you were arrested off the base by state or municipal police, the case would be tried through the New Jersey Courts system. A DWI conviction carries serious consequences, such as loss of your driving privileges, excessive fines, community service and time in jail or prison — even for a first time offense. You will also accrue a significant amount of insurance eligibility points, which will make it extremely difficult to find affordable auto insurance.
On the other hand, if the arrest occurred on a military base, you will be charged by the military under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). In this case, you will be tried by the military court, which has the discretion to convict members with blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels lower than the state limit of 0.08%. This means that you can be convicted of a DWI for having a smaller trace of alcohol in your system. While it’s true that you won’t be facing the standard set of penalties associated with a civilian DWI, the state can impose penalties directly related to your driving privileges, such as license suspension. In addition, a DWI conviction under the military courts can result in a wide variety of damaging consequences, including dishonorable discharge, loss of pension, forfeiture of pay, reimbursement of funds received under the GI Bill, and jail time.
Be Aware of the Increased Penalties for a Military DWI
Although you cannot be tried under the civilian court system and the military court system at the same time, your commanding officers can subject you to administrative actions such as revocation of pass privileges and mandatory substance abuse treatment. The military can also charge you with disorderly conduct, or any other crimes that were related to the DWI incident.
Regardless of where the arrest occurred, you must speak to an attorney about the ramifications of a military DWI. If you are dishonorably discharged, you will lose all your benefits, such as health insurance and college pay. You will also lose preferential consideration that you would have been given for school and job applications, since you would be stripped of your “veteran” status.
Even if you avoid being discharged, you and your family can be serious affected by administrative actions, such as a reduction in grade. Also known as a reduction in rank, this term refers to a demotion imposed by a military court-martial. A reduction in grade hurts your military career prospects and places you at a lower pay grade, which can hurt your ability to provide for your family.
Free Consultation with a NJ DWI Attorney
If you have been charged with a military DWI, please speak to the experienced NJ DWI attorneys of Villani & DeLuca. Our lawyers have extensive experience in trying DWI cases throughout the state. They can give you the effective representation you need to protect your rights and preserve your quality of life. Please call (732) 965-3350 to schedule a free consultation about your military DWI charge!