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Facing a DUI or Criminal Charge as a Member of the Military: What You Need to Know in New Jersey

March 15, 2024 | Posted In Criminal Law, Drunk Driving

Getting arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) or facing criminal charges in New Jersey can present severe risks regardless of your career. But, for members of the military, the risks can be even greater. Along with facing charges in civilian court, members of the military can face Article 15 punishments and court martial proceedings as well—and these proceedings can put servicemembers’ military careers in jeopardy in some cases. As a result, experienced legal representation is critical, and if you are facing charges as a member of the military, you will want to speak with a New Jersey defense attorney as soon as possible.

Civilian Penalties for DUI and Criminal Charges in New Jersey

If you were arrested off base, you could face civilian penalties in New Jersey court. A DUI conviction in New Jersey is never expungable in New Jersey because only crimes, disorderly and petty disorderly offenses and ordinances are expungable but not traffic offenses. So, a DUI conviction will stay on your record forever. Although considered a traffic offense in New Jersey, other States and countries may treat it as a crime (e.g. barred from entering Canada, barred from legally owning a firearm in some States, inability to get many jobs, etc.). The specific penalties you are facing depend on the offense (or offenses) with which you are being charged. In New Jersey DUI cases, potential penalties include:

  • Hundreds of dollars in fines, court costs and surcharges
  • Loss of your driver’s license (unless you are eligible for voluntary ignition interlock device (IID) installation)
  • Mandatory IID installation
  • Mandatory Jail or prison time
  • Enrollment at an Intoxicated Driver’s Resource Center

The specific penalties you are facing will depend on the facts involved in your case (i.e., your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and whether you caused an accident) and whether you have any prior DUIs on your record. If you get convicted of DUI, your auto insurance premiums could also increase by hundreds of dollars per month for several years.

In criminal cases, the penalties you are facing also depend on several factors. First and foremost, the range of potential penalties depends on whether you are being charged with a disorderly persons offense or an indictable offense. Under New Jersey law, the standard penalty ranges for most crimes are:

  • Petty Disorderly Persons Offenses – Up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine
  • Disorderly Persons Offenses – Up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine
  • Fourth-Degree Indictable Offenses – Up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine
  • Third-Degree Indictable Offenses – Three to five years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine
  • Second-Degree Indictable Offenses – Five to 10 years in prison and up to a $150,000 fine
  • First-Degree Indictable Offenses – 10 to 20 years in prison and up to a $200,000 fine in most cases

However, certain crimes (such as sexual assault) carry additional penalties as well, and depending on the facts of your case, you may be able to serve probation or community service in lieu of prison time. To ensure that you have a clear understanding of what you have at stake—and to ensure that you are doing everything you possibly can to protect yourself—you should discuss your case with an experienced New Jersey defense attorney promptly.

Article 15 Punishments for DUI and Criminal Charges

As a member of the military, facing a DUI arrest or a criminal charge could also lead to punishment under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). As the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) explains:

“Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice is intended to give military commanders a swift, efficient, and easy way to: (1) punish those committing minor offenses; (2) maintain discipline; and (3) deter misconduct. The punishments authorized for article 15 are limited and generally less severe than those that can be imposed by court-martial. Also, unlike a court-martial, an article 15 is not considered a conviction for a criminal offense.”

Military servicemembers can face Article 15 punishments regardless of whether they get convicted in civilian court. Under Article 15, commanding officers have the authority to impose punishment based on their own independent assessment of the underlying facts. Under Article 15, potential penalties for driving under the influence and even relatively minor criminal offenses include (but are not limited to):

  • Confinement
  • Corrective training
  • Extra duty
  • Fines
  • Reductions in rank
  • Reprimand or admonition
  • Substance abuse training

In addition to imposing these (and other) penalties directly, commanding officers can also refer cases for court-martial. Depending on the circumstances involved, allegations of driving under the influence or committing a crime can lead to various additional administrative consequences as well.

Court-Martial Cases Involving New Jersey DUIs and Crimes

If your commanding officer determines that additional action is warranted, he or she may refer your case for trial by court-martial. There are three levels of court-martial in the U.S. military, each with its own unique set of rules, procedures and potential consequences:

  • Summary Court-Martial – Summary court-martial proceedings typically involve low-level offenses.
  • Special Court-Martial – Special court-martial proceedings involve intermediate offenses and trigger servicemembers’ right to counsel.
  • General Court-Martial – General court-martial proceedings are reserved for the most serious criminal offenses.

Generally speaking, court-martial proceedings involving DUIs and criminal offenses can lead to penalties that are more substantial than those imposed under Article 15. In the most severe cases, servicemembers can face military imprisonment along with a dishonorable discharge and a permanent bar from re-enlisting.  

Protecting Yourself After an Arrest in New Jersey as a Military Servicemember

With all of these risks in mind, what can (and should) you do to protect yourself after a DUI or criminal arrest in New Jersey? The most important step you can take is to speak with an experienced New Jersey defense attorney as soon as possible. An attorney who has experience representing military servicemembers will be able to help you understand what is at risk in your case, determine what defenses you have available, and take all necessary legal action to protect you to the fullest extent possible.

Speak with an Experienced New Jersey Defense Attorney in Confidence

Are you facing a DUI or criminal charges as a member of the military in New Jersey? If so, we can help protect you, and we encourage you to contact us promptly for more information. To speak with an experienced New Jersey defense attorney in confidence as soon as possible, call 877-435-6371 or request an appointment online now.

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