Civilian DUI & Military Consequences

Are you a Military Service Member charged with a civilian crime, including a DUI? If so, there are a number of possible outcomes that could impact your military career.

If you are charged with a civilian crime, including a DUI, you most likely need to take the case seriously and hire legal representation. Contact us at Judnich Law to get an experienced criminal lawyer by your side. Call (406) 602-8700 or contact us online for a free consultation.

Possible Outcomes

A DUI in and of itself is guaranteed to have an adverse impact on your career. It could result in something as minor as adverse counseling in your personnel file, all the way to a military court-martial (federal conviction, jail time, etc.) in the most extreme circumstances. 

The most likely outcome is either adverse counseling, which is likely to limit your career progression, or “nonjudicial punishment”, at which the service member can lose rank, pay, and liberty while on restriction. While this article is written from the perspective of the USMC, generally this article is applicable across the DoD.

Decisive Factors

First, the conviction alone, regardless of whatever punishments are imposed by civilian authorities, is guaranteed to result in some sort of adverse process within the military. Factors that will heavily influence how the military treats the conviction and ultimately proceeds include:

  • The extent of damage/injury caused by the crime.
  • Whether the conviction is a first offense or if there are prior instances of misconduct (related or unrelated to alcohol). 
  • What civilian punishments were imposed, including:
    • Whether the sentence included a jail sentence. Even for any length of time, a jail sentence is virtually guaranteed to result in separation proceedings. 
    • Loss of driver’s license, which can affect some military personnel more than others. 
    • Size of any fines/fees.

Military Prosecution

There is also the risk of possible military prosecution. Separate sovereigns’ principle allows military (federal) prosecution regardless of conviction or acquittal at state court. 

DOJ policy memo (which the military follows) generally disfavors a second prosecution unless there is a clear showing of injustice. If punishments don’t match the crime, the military may try them again to seek harsher punishments. While this virtually never happens, it’s a possibility.

Adverse Counseling

Adverse counseling (similar to a warning in a human resource personnel file) is almost guaranteed. Adverse counselings have negative career implications, including: 

  • Reduced likelihood of promotion/re-enlistment.
  • Documented misconduct makes future separation more likely.
  • Some very competitive assignments will be unavailable.
  • At separation, documented misconduct can result in a lower characterization of service, which can have impacts on benefits eligibility (specifically, the GI Bill requires honorable service).
  • Loss or reduction of security clearance. 

Administrative Separation

Administrative separation from the military — which is the equivalent of being fired in the civilian world — could also occur. Typically, the policy is to process for separation after A second DUI, in which the processing for separation is mandatory. 

If a service member is ordered separated, he or she could also be reduced in rank and be separated with other than the honorable characterization of service. This reduces any potential benefits and impacts a service member’s ability to wear the uniform after discharge. 

Other factors to consider

Other considerations and potential collateral consequences include:

Referral to alcohol rehabilitation programs

Any alcohol-related incident requires screening for substance abuse counseling. 

  • Failure to participate in or complete the alcohol treatment program shall be processed for separation.
  • If referred to counseling, any future alcohol incident requires mandatory processing for separation from the military.

Loss of your driver’s license can have career impacts

Many jobs require service members to operate military vehicles, which requires a civilian driver’s license. Losing the ability to do your job can have adverse career impacts.

  • Adverse performance evaluations can end your career.
  • Could be assigned a new job that does not require a driver’s license. This is likely to be an undesirable menial job with reduced promotion possibilities.
  • Unability to get to work/appointments can be a drain on unit resources.

Security Clearance impacts

First offense is likely to result in temporary suspense of security clearance, and up to 6 months to recertify.

  • Loss of clearance in most cases means you cannot do your job.
  • Even a first offense if severe enough (severe property damage, danger to life) can result in permanent revocation of a clearance.

Multiple offenses show a pattern of unreliable decision-making and are almost guaranteed to result in permanent loss of clearance. 

  • Even if pled down to a lower offense, the clearance adjudication process considers the underlying facts and not the final charge, so there’s no way to avoid impact on clearance.
  • One-time occurrences can be overlooked for small offenses, but anything that shows a pattern will become a non-starter, no matter the situation.

Your expert legal team

Here at the Judnich Law Office, we not only focus on criminal defense, but we also have experience with the Military Justice System — Nathan Hulling, our managing attorney, served as a Judge Advocate in the United States Marine Corps from 2009 to 2017. As a Major in the USMC and a former Marine prosecutor at Camp Pendleton, he knows how to protect your rights and your career. 

Give us a call today at (406) 602-8700 or reach out to Nathan at 


  1. MCO 1900.16 w/ CH2 (Marine Corps Separation Manual, Appendix K benefits chart)