DUI while Serving in the Military

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DWI/DUI while serving in the Military.

Recent studies have shown a dramatic increase in “alcohol abuse” among those on active duty. In fact, in one study it was revealed that military personnel are more likely to drink more heavily than those who are not in the military. Because of the high criterion of a military person, they face greater consequences in regard to DUI than a civilian.

Facing a Military DUI

As you probably already know, DUI is a very serious offense, but when faced with a DUI while serving in the military, it means the consequences can and usually are much more severe. If someone who is a member of the armed forces finds him or herself facing a Military DUI charge, there are a number of differences regarding a military DUI compared to a civilian DUI charge. The first difference is that when a person is in the military, their case is tried in a military court, which has a different criterion for evaluating the state’s legal blood alcohol level. In fact, in a military court, if the blood alcohol limit is lower than the state’s legal limit, it doesn’t necessarily matter. Why? Because if the military court feels that the blood alcohol level was high enough to impair the ability of the person driving a vehicle, they can be charged with a military DUI. Intoxicated in the military is defined as the presence in the blood of any amount of alcohol, however small. It is very possible for a military person to be DUI or DWI even if a Breathalyzer or BAT (blood alcohol test) discloses that the blood alcohol concentration is considerably below the state’s legal level. Anyone in the military facing a DUI can expect that it will destroy their military career. The reason? Because a dishonorable discharge usually and often occurs when a military person is arrested for a DUI, and that means a career in the military will probably end. There are times when the relationship of the service person with their commanding officer can have an affect on the end result, but more often than not, an alcohol related arrest bears great consequences. If a person in the military faces a court-martial because of military DUI charges, their good name, along with their military career, benefits and freedom are at great risk. More than likely a positive alcohol test will lead to the end of a military career in addition to federal conviction and jail time.

The abuse of alchohol by young members of the Military

Heavy alcohol use is a significant problem in the military. Personnel often use alcohol in an attempt to cope with stress, boredom, loneliness, and the lack of other recreational activities. The easy availability of alcohol, ritualized drinking opportunities, and inconsistent policies contribute to a work culture that facilitates heavy and binge drinking in this population. Prevention strategies such as alcohol use policies combined with campaigns focusing on alcohol deglamorization, personal responsibility, and health promotion currently are being implemented to help reduce heavy alcohol use, but further research is needed to evaluate the effects of these efforts. Understanding the characteristics of military culture that encourage or allow heavy and binge drinking practices also will help in designing effective prevention approaches.

Relative to other substance use, heavy drinking (i.e., consuming five or more drinks per typical drinking occasion at least once a week) appears to be a particularly persistent problem in the military. Although illicit drug use and cigarette smoking both decreased significantly over the period from 1980 to 2002, heavy alcohol use did not show the same decline. In fact, heavy alcohol use increased significantly from 1998 to 2002 for the first time since 1988. In 2002, 27 percent of young adults in the military reported heavy drinking, compared with only 8.9 percent of 26- to 55-year-olds.

Heavy drinking also is prevalent among those entering the military. A study tracking high school...
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