You've heard the television commercial that says, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas," and while that may be true for a lot of things, it's not always true for DUI charges. If you get charged with a DUI while on vacation in Vegas, it will likely follow you home due to the Driver License Compact, which is used by most states to exchange information regarding the traffic violations and license suspensions of non-residents.
But what if you are a member of the military, and home is a military post or in military housing? Here's what you need to know.
Understanding Article 111 of the UCMJ
Article 111 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice says that operating a vehicle while impaired by a substance is a criminal act and, therefore, is punishable under the UCMJ. The civilian court system will address off-base DUI offenses, but this does not mean that the double jeopardy rule of the civilian courts comes into play, which means you cannot be convicted more than once for the same crime.
Your commanding officer can take punitive action by reducing your pay and rank, barring you from reenlisting, limiting your driving privileges, and/or giving you an Article 15. You do have the right to turn down the Article 15 and request a court martial. If you believe you have a strong civilian case and will not be convicted of a DUI, it would be in your best interest to request a court martial. Because of this, it's extremely important that you hire a DUI lawyer to represent you in civilian court.
Telling Your Chain of Command
Since you were arrested in Vegas, you will need to return to Vegas for your court date. To do this, you will need to put in a leave request. If you are trying to keep your DUI charge a secret until after the civilian court date, you may have a difficult time getting your leave approved so you can be in Vegas for your court date.
Also, if your driver's license was issued by the state where you are currently stationed, there's a good chance your chain of command will learn about your charge through the local authorities when they receive notification of your DUI charge. Another issue that may come up that would result in your chain of command finding out is if you need to update your security clearance or obtain a new one. Due to these risks, it may be better to err on the side of caution and report your DUI charge immediately upon returning to your duty station.