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3 ways zero-tolerance drunk driving can affect servicemembers

On Behalf of | Apr 26, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Military servicemembers sometimes find themselves in an awkward position. They may know the law in the state where they come from, but not the law in the state where they end up stationed later in their career. Moving from state to state can make it very difficult for servicemembers to ensure consistent compliance with the law even when they have the best intentions.

That being said, drunk driving statutes are relatively consistent from one state to the other. The military itself has a very strict policy on drunk driving. Across all branches of the military, there is a zero-tolerance approach to drunk driving convictions and infractions on military bases that do not result in civilian prosecution.

What impact can that zero-tolerance policy have on servicemembers?

It creates career risk for personal choices

Obviously, anything that servicemembers do while actively serving could lead to military penalties. They could also face career consequences for mistakes that they make in their personal lives. The average person may not automatically lose their job after a drunk driving conviction. However, someone in the military can expect the chain of command to respond assertively to a conviction in the civilian courts or any court-martial proceedings related to impaired driving.

It creates an incentive to fight charges

The average person accused of drunk driving is likely to plead guilty. Those in the military who understand the potential career consequences of a drunk driving conviction may want to take their case to trial. The possibility of career setbacks can be a powerful motivator for those accused of breaking the law. Those who successfully avoid a conviction can potentially prevent any military consequences for their arrest and prosecution.

It may reduce substance abuse issues

Military service is a very stressful career path, and servicemembers frequently develop substance abuse issues. They use alcohol or other drugs to self-medicate during their service and for years afterward.

The implementation of the zero-tolerance policy may serve as an incentive to avoid alcohol and drug abuse. Research looking specifically at female servicemembers found that their chances of having substance abuse disorders declined in part due to the zero-tolerance policy. The possibility of facing career consequences could deter people from drinking socially, a habit that may lead to substance abuse.

Servicemembers who have been accused of drunk driving or other substance-related infractions are at risk of a host of personal and professional consequences. Responding appropriately to charges when serving in the military is crucial for the continuation of someone’s career. Servicemembers who carefully conform to state law and military policy are in the best position possible to avoid issues that could derail their careers.