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What happens if a servicemember is charged with a DWI

As a member of the United States military, you are expected to adhere to a higher standard of conduct. Being arrested for a DWI off base violates state law, and it also violates military law. If you are arrested for a DWI, you may face consequences from both authorities.

DWI law

In Texas, if your blood alcohol is .08 or higher, you can be charged with a DWI. If an officer observes impaired behavior while driving, you may also be charged with a DWI. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, if you are pulled over on suspicion of DWI and refuse to take a breathalyzer test, your license is suspended for 180 days.

Punishment from the state

Assuming the DWI is a first offense, you face from 3-180 days in jail, loss of license for up to one year, a fine that could total $2,000 and additional annual fines to keep your driver’s license. If it is the second or third offense, all the penalties increase, and you may have to install a breathalyzer in your car to continue driving.

Punishment from the military

A DWI is punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Depending on the branch of service, the consequences will vary. The military prosecution could be combined with your civilian prosecution, or it could be separate. You could face charges for disorderly conduct, or you could be charged with a DWI in military court. Your commanding officer might also order substance abuse treatment, corrective training or revoke your pass privileges.

Long-term consequences

There are also possible long-term consequences. If you were recently promoted, the promotion could be revoked, you could be demoted or you could never be promoted again. For anyone who is trying to pursue a life-long career in the military, these consequences could prove disastrous. There are also certain positions in the military that require a security clearance. If you are convicted of a DWI, you will likely not be eligible for security clearance.

If you are a servicemember that has been charged with a DWI, you may want to consider contacting an attorney with experience representing both civilian and military clients. An attorney who understands both sets of consequences can help you mount the best case for your defense.

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