How Military Personnel Can Be Affected by An NH DWI
For a New Hampshire civilian, DWI charges can be severe. If convicted of even a first time offense, the penalties you face include expensive monetary fines, probation, loss of your driver’s license, and potential jail time. If you are an active duty member of the Air Force, Navy, or Army who receives a DWI, the consequences you face become even more serious.
Officials within the United States military are actively cracking down on over-imbibing troops – both abroad and at home. Service members and addiction specialists state that driving while intoxicated and binge drinking remains as rampant as ever within the military. Unfortunately, the decision to drink too much is often accompanied by the decision to get behind the wheel of a car in an intoxicated state.
How the Military Is Cracking Down On DWIs
Military officials have initiated several new policies to deal with this rising problem. In 2013, the Marine Corps began administering random Breathalyzer tests to its members. In Germany, the Army and Air Force have banned overnight liquor sales for members of the U.S. military. American service members stationed in Japan have been barred from leaving their places of residence after consuming more than one alcoholic beverage.
The agency has enacted a new policy to eliminate and prevent alcohol and drug abuse from the Department of Defense. The military now screens its members for problematic drinking patterns, offers treatment for those who are identified as having problems, and is actively working to alter attitudes regarding driving while intoxicated, as well as binge drinking. Dependence and abuse of alcohol are viewed as incompatible with military discipline, the maintenance of high performance standards, and readiness.
Indeed, one analysis of driving while intoxicated and general boozing patterns on and around military bases revealed that nearly 47% of active duty service members admitted to having participated in driving while intoxicated within the last 12 months in 2008. The authors of this study concluded that the use of alcohol and the behaviors it produces are currently at unacceptably high levels, which makes it severely detrimental to overall force fitness and readiness.
Why A Military DWI Is Classified As More Severe
Military DWIs are considered more severe than civilian DWIs. This is due to the fact that military personnel are held to a higher standard of conduct than civilians are. Included in this higher standard is a “zero tolerance” policy towards drunken driving. For civilians, New Hampshire’s mandated BAC threshold is .08% for a DWI charge. This state law applies to members of the armed forces driving throughout our state; however, a military court will discipline a member of the military even if their BAC levels are below our state’s defined threshold for DWI charges.
It should be noted that, if a solider is prosecuted in a civilian court for a DWI, he or she will not face a military court martial for the same charges. In addition to the possibility of being charged in two different courts (active duty military and civilian), it should be known that military courts generally do not follow the same sentencing guidelines as our civilian courts do. In fact, when it comes to military DWIs, there are no maximum sentencing laws in the military. How severe a disciplinary action is left to the discretion of the military court. Even if a member of the armed forces were to avoid DWI charges by New Hampshire, their military career could still be threatened. If they are prosecuted by the state for a DWI, there is still a wide variety of punitive actions that their commanding officers can employ as a form of punishment.
Military Service & DWIs – The Potential Consequences
Having a DWI on your record in the Marine Corps, Army, or any other branch of the armed forces could potentially bring along with it career ending consequences. In more serious cases, a military DWI could result in a dishonorable discharge. A dishonorable discharge means that you will lose your benefits, and you could potentially be incarcerated. However, in other scenarios, specific disciplinary do not completely terminate one’s career, but they do effectively end it. Other disciplinary actions that convicted service members face include pay reduction, loss of rank, loss of special clearances, loss of driving privileges, and the inability to advance in rank or pay. At a bare minimum, disciplinary notes will be added to one’s permanent record, which can hamper a career within the military. There is also a possibility that your automobile could be seized by authorities.
Even if New Hampshire’s civilian authorities decline to prosecute, a serviceman (or woman) can still become subject to a court martial for a DWI under Article 111 of the UCMJ. This article specifically states that “any person who operates or physically controls any vehicle, aircraft, or vessel in a reckless or wanton manner or while impaired shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”
Fighting a Military DWI Charge
Ultimately, it will be up to the discretion of a court to determine the outcome of your DWI offense. The recommended course of action is to employ the services of a New Hampshire DWI lawyer who is familiar with the ins and outs of both civilian and military law. At the very least, an experienced and skilled NH DWI attorney can assist you in avoiding charges on a state level, and this could be exactly what is required to save your military career.
You’ve worked hard for all that you’ve accomplished in the military, and you shouldn’t have to lose it all because of one mistake. For a free consultation regarding your case, please contact our law firm today. We can be reached via telephone, email, or through our website, and it is our pledge to work diligently on your behalf to secure the best possible outcome for your case.