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For service members, a DUI conviction has serious consequences

In Tennessee, the penalties for DUI can be harsh, even for first-time offenders. As we've discussed before, jail time, fines and a suspended license are just the beginning. You could miss work or even lose your job. You could lose your professional license or CDL. There are fees for testing your blood alcohol content and for reinstating your license once the suspension is over. If you want to drive, costly SR-22 insurance and interlock is required. And that's all for a first-time, uncomplicated DUI conviction.

If you're a member of the military, the consequences of a DUI can be far more serious. First of all, you could be subject to a court martial, either in conjunction with or in addition to your civilian charges.

Second, and just as important, a DUI conviction could have a profoundly negative effect on your career. Most occupational specialties in the military require security clearances, and a DUI can get your security clearance pulled. You could be demoted -- or simply become essentially ineligible for promotion.

Consider the hypothetical situation of a sailor who has been serving as an E-5 but was just elevated to E-6. He gets a DUI after celebrating the promotion. According to the Military Wallet, the most likely outcome is for his commanding officer to consider any extenuating or mitigating circumstances and, assuming those are favorable, simply take back the promotion to E-6.

That could be upsetting, but there is more. In addition to losing his promotion, the sailor:

  • Will probably never be promoted again, as the Navy typically screens out applicants with DUI convictions
  • Will likely be given the least favorable assignments in order to allow rising stars to have the choice ones
  • Could be released before earning full retirement benefits, as the military is currently downsizing and is an "up or out" organization. People who fail to get promoted beyond E-5 in the Navy are typically forced out at the 14-year mark.

Less likely but still possible is a reduction in rank to E-4. This could mean being forced out of the service at the 8-year mark. The Military Wallet considers a no-demotion outcome as the least likely scenario.

In addition to a potential demotion and the consequences of that, each military service has its own policies that could affect you. And, a second DUI conviction could result in an automatic administrative separation.

Military members who have been arrested for DUI owe it to themselves to fight the charges. You have a lot at stake -- don't plead guilty before discussing your case with an experienced DUI defense attorney.

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