DUI in the Military: Article 111 of the UCMJ

In the civilian world, driving under the influence or DUI is considered a severe crime. Drinking and driving is a recipe for disaster. The stakes are even higher if the person facing a DUI charge is a service member. Why? Many service members spend their days operating vehicles, aircraft, and vessels. They are expected to handle these machines safely and responsibly. Failure to take proper care of military property could result in a criminal charge.

Facing DUI charges can be life-changing. But to what extent? This article will explore the severe consequences of military DUI. This includes the repercussions in a person’s civilian and military life.

DUI conviction

What is a DUI?

A DUI is short for Driving Under the Influence. This offense is committed when a person is found operating a vehicle while their blood alcohol content (BAC) is above the legal limits set by the law. Law enforcement officers usually conduct a breath analyzer test to determine that person’s BAC.

Across the United States, the legal limit is 0.8%. If a person’s BAC is above this level, they are legally considered intoxicated and can be charged with a DUI. Driving Under the Influence can also mean driving under the influence of drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs.

In layperson’s terms, a DUI conviction is when a person is found to be guilty of drunk driving or driving while on drugs. In all US states, drunk driving is considered unlawful. However, the consequences for a DUI charge vary on a state level. The penalty severity would depend on how many previous convictions the defendant has. A DUI conviction stays in a person’s criminal record and is considered a prior conviction for up to ten years.

What is a Military DUI?

A Military DUI is a violation of Article 111: Drunken or Reckless Operation of Vehicle, Aircraft, or Vessel of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). As per the UCMJ, service members can be charged with a Military DUI whether on base in a military craft or off base in a personal vehicle.

The military is absolutely intolerant of drunk driving. A DUI conviction can have everlasting effects on a person’s military career and other aspects of their lives. Service members are committed to abiding by stricter requirements and face more severe consequences than civilians who committed the same offense.

For a person to be found guilty of violating Article 111, a number of parameters must be met. These parameters are: The person is physically controlling or operating a vehicle, aircraft, or vessel recklessly. The person is in a drunk or impaired state because of alcohol or controlled substance consumption. If found guilty, that person will be punished as decided by a court martial. Generally speaking, there are three types of Military DUI cases:

Service Member Arrested On Base

In this case, the defendant will be charged in a military court as stipulated in the Uniform Code provided in Article 111 Section 911 of the Military Justice Law. They will be subjected to both a court martial and adverse administrative penalties. The defendant won’t be tried in a civilian court for DUI charges for this Military DUI type.

Service Member Arrested Off Base

If a service member is arrested outside a military installation or base by civilian authorities and given DUI charges, they will most likely be tried in civilian courts. However, the accused’s commanding officer may issue administrative penalties concurrently with the civilian courts.

Some penalties they can face apart from the standard criminal charges include corrective training, getting their pass privileges revoked, and a mandatory substance abuse treatment program. Moreover, the military may also try the DUI offender with other offenses related to the DUI case.

Civilian Arrested On Military Base

In this case, the defendant will be tried in a federal court, not a state court. However, the state’s DUI laws may still be used to convict that person. This is because no federal DUI statutes apply to civilians. This DUI conviction type may happen to a service member’s family member, their friends, and maybe even civilian employees working on that base.

judge striking the gavel

What are the Consequences of DUI in the Military?

Depending on whether the incident happened on or off base, military service members may face state or military prosecution. A state DUI charge for off-base cases may result in administrative penalties from the defendant’s commanding officer. These penalties may include the following:

  • Corrective training
  • Enrollment in an alcohol abuse treatment program
  • General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand (GOMOR)
  • Revocation of pass privileges

An active duty service member who is found guilty of military DUI will most probably be subject to an Article 15 hearing or court martial. They may also be subject to the following administrative actions:

  • Automatic suspension of on-post driving privileges
  • Disciplinary demotion and pay reduction
  • Disputed entitlement to military pension and other benefits after leaving the service
  • Disqualification from future promotions and reenlistment
  • Mandatory substance abuse treatment
  • Nearly certain removal of security clearance status
  • Separation proceedings for second offenses within one year, meaning a high possibility of less-than-honorable or dishonorable discharge

Civil Consequences of DUI

Military courts aren’t the only ones that may issue penalties to people guilty of drunk driving. As mentioned, the DUI charge penalties vary from state to state. Some commonly given penalties include the following:

  • Community service
  • Fines
  • Jail time
  • Mandatory installation of an Ignition Interlock Device
  • Probation
  • Revocation or suspension of driving privileges

It should be highlighted that military members can face DUI charges if the case happened outside of a federal military base. It doesn’t matter if the defendant was on or off duty. Once a person is on state land, they’re subject to criminal and civil laws. The state has no jurisdiction when a person is arrested on a federal military base.

Military Administrative Penalties

Administrative actions are often given when a service member is charged with a DUI. While they’re considered penalties, they’re not as severe as those of military courts. It should be highlighted that a DUI case may attract more action. The penalties issued by military authorities may be more than the ones indicated. Common administrative actions include the following:

  • Administrative grade reduction. This consequence would depend on the person’s rank and the commander who approved the reduced grade.
  • Letter of reprimand. A general officer often composes this formal document, but this can be the defendant’s superior, if applicable. This letter details one’s actions and indicates what punishments are to be expected.
  • Mandated substance abuse treatment. Commanding officers can require the defendant’s enlistment in this program after the DUI. The accused’s representative program branch usually handles this.
  • Reenlistment denial. After the service member’s current service is completed, it’s common for people to reenlist for military service. The accused’s ability to re-enter military service is revoked when this procedure is invoked.

Punitive Penalties

Punitive actions for military service members may include a court-martial and a non-judicial punishment as provided in the UCMJ’s Article 15. A court-martial is a military court that conducts trial like a civilian court. A DUI conviction is considered a severe offense which is why it can be tried in a court-martial. Article 111 of the UCMJ stipulates that DUI charges can warrant a court-martial.

The military has separate laws and guidelines provided in the UCMJ. A judicial hearing may not be necessary in minor DUI cases by a military officer. UCMJ’s Article 15 permits the defendant’s commanding officer to determine whether the accused is guilty.

How to Defend Against DUI Charges in the Military

Regardless of whether a person is tried in a civil court or a military one, they should enlist a DUI attorney who can probably defend them well against severe military DUI consequences. Here are possible defenses a DUI attorney can use:

  • Inaccurate sobriety tests. Tests are conducted on the defendant and are presented before the court as proof that the person was guilty of drunk driving and a risk to other people. A competent DUI attorney would be able to tell whether or not the results are accurate. The prosecutor may lose the case if it can be proven that the testing gadgets or the tests had problems.
  • No probable cause for alarm. If a person is arrested for DUI, reasons for that person’s arrest should be presented to prove that the person was indeed drunk and disorderly on the road. If the police have no probable cause for alarm but arrested and tested that person, the court cannot accept any proof presented.If the defendant wasn’t acting in a way that would suggest they were driving under the influence, the police weren’t correct to stop and arrest them. In this case, the defendant’s rights were violated during the arrest.

What Are The Long-Term Implications of Military DUI?

Unfortunately, a Military DUI conviction can have long-term consequences. This means that one’s future might be compromised by a DUI arrest indefinitely. Here are some long-term repercussions that people who commit DUI offenses might face:

  • Inability to find work in the civilian world. A DUI offense on one’s permanent record may limit employment opportunities in post-military life. Some employers may refuse to consider that person, given the reason for their separation.
  • Loan acquisition. Approval of a loan is nearly impossible for people with employment proof or income.


driving under influence

A Military DUI can damage a person’s future, not just in the military context but beyond as well. Aside from educating people not to drink and drive, service members should be aware of the consequences of a DUI conviction. To learn more about life in the military, explore the Military Verification website further.


What is a Military DUI?

A Military DUI or drinking and driving is a violation of Article 111 of the UCMJ. Service members can be charged with a Military DUI, whether on base in a military craft or off base in a personal vehicle.

Can you get a court-martial for a Military DUI?

Yes, a person can be subject to a court-martial because DUI is considered a severe offense in the military.

Will the military take someone with a DUI?

It depends, but yes, people with a DUI on their record may enlist for the Armed Forces. However, this is on a case-by-case basis.

What happens when a military member gets a DUI?

It depends on the severity of the charges. There are no universal penalties for a DUI charge.

Is a DUI a dishonorable discharge?

It is possible, but not necessarily. This would depend on the court verdict.

Can you lose military retirement for DUI?

It is possible to lose military retirement privileges if the case is severe. However, this depends on the case at hand.

What is the Army regulation for a DUI?

Article 111 of the UCMJ details the consequences of a DUI conviction. The consequences would depend on a case-by-case basis.

Similar Posts