Society generally places greater expectations on military personnel to follow the laws. The reality is that someone in the military is like any other human and may from time to time make mistakes. When the mistake is driving under the influence in California, the procedure and resulting consequences if convicted will depend on where the offense occurred. If you are military personnel charged with any DUI-related offense, it is important that you hire a San Diego DUI lawyer.
Driving under the influence (DUI) under California law carries layers of different offenses. Additionally, depending on your number of previous DUI convictions or aggravating circumstances, the penalties will vary significantly from one case to another. Another layer to DUI-related charges is whether the individual being arrested is a military personnel or civilian.
DUI Charge Off-Base
A military servicemember lives in two worlds, one that is controlled by the military and the other which is controlled by civilian authority. If you are charged by a police officer for DUI while off-base, your matter will proceed in a civilian court. In such circumstances, you will face the following penalties if found guilty:
- Criminal Penalties – These will include fines, possible time behind bars and other non-custodial sentences. The extent of these penalties will vary based on any prior convictions and/or the aggravating factors at the time of the arrest. Each case will be determined on its own facts, but the key to avoiding such penalties is to hire a civilian DUI defense lawyer to prepare a sound defense and fight to obtain a not guilty verdict in your case.
- Administrative Penalties – DUI offenses carry penalties that are administered by the DMV on its own authority or by order of the court. Such penalties will include revocation or suspension of your driving privileges. The length of time for such revocation or suspension will depend on whether this is your first time and whether it is triggered by a conviction in court.
Other penalties may include probation, enrollment in an alcohol education program, or a requirement that you install a vehicle ignition lock to safeguard against driving while under the influence. Once you are being charged in the civilian court of law, the military will not be able to pursue prosecution of the same offense.
DUI Charge On A Military Base
The Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is the authority under which the military will proceed against you if you are charged with a DUI while on a military base such as Camp Pendleton or Naval Base San Diego. Additionally, the military can prosecute for those charges not being pursued by the civilian court. Penalties under the UCMJ may include the following:
- Non-Judicial – Depending on the gravity of the offense, you may be subjected to reprimand, additional duties, restrictions, and penalties relating to pay, following an inquiry or hearing by your commanding officer.
- Judicial Punishment – This can result from a court martial proceeding and can include pay penalties, confinement, and even dismissal.
It is important for you to know that even if you are being charged by the civilian court, your commanding officer has the authority to impose administrative actions against you. This can include a written reprimand, removal of pass privileges, referral to a treatment program, training, reduction in rank, and bar to reenlistment. It is, therefore, critical that when you are charged with a DUI in California, you get a criminal defense lawyer to ensure your good standing in the military and prove your innocence.
How A San Diego Military DUI Attorney Can Help You
The military will not provide you with a lawyer if you are being prosecuted for DUI in the California civilian courts. Accordingly, it is important to retain the services of a law firm that can help.
For years, McElfresh Law has provided high-level criminal defense representation to military personnel charged with criminal offenses. Our vast knowledge and experience include DUI-related matters and we work with our clients to get charges dismissed, reduced, or to secure a not-guilty verdict. We understand the importance of your innocence and protecting your standing in the military and we will work to prepare a sound defense if your matter must proceed to trial.
IF you were stopped on a military base and face charges under the UCMJ, you can use a lawyer provided by the military. However, you have a right to hire your own attorney to defend you in such matters.
As military personnel, DUI charges may affect you professionally as well as personally, so you should take the decision about legal representation seriously. Call San Diego DUI attorney Jessica McElfresh today at (858) 756-7107 and let us discuss your case.