It’s not uncommon for people to drink in the military. The problem is, if a service member is arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Texas, there will be some serious consequences that impact many aspects of their military life; for example, a reduce in rank.
The U.S. Army published an article about an Army noncommissioned officer whose military career was affected after getting behind the wheel one night after having “just a few drinks.” The NCO, who the Army called “John Smith,” was arrested for DWI in Germany one summer evening. When Smith’s command was notified, a general officer letter of reprimand was given to Smith, which of course was filed in his record.
“That’s going to haunt me for the rest of my career,” said Smith.
Smith’s rank was reduced from E-5 to E-4, and according to Smith, “I went from a supervisory pay grade to junior enlisted pay grade.” After more than a year for Smith to regain his rank, he lost about $8,000 in basic pay, but the cost was more than financial.
Smith lost his driver’s license for a year, and he was given 45 days of restriction to post and extended duty. His days started at 6:30 am and ended at 10 pm – 7 days a week. He also forfeited 50 percent of his pay for two months. Smith didn’t get much support from his peers. His unit wanted Smith to be separated from the Army due to his misconduct, but as an NCO who had put in six years of loyal service, the separation board decided to retain Smith.
Even though his superiors decided to retain him, it wasn’t easy for Smith to be accepted back into his unit. According to Smith, the guys in his unit were telling him that he wasn’t fit for the uniform.
DWI and Court-Martial
If a service member is caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .01% or higher, they have violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice. In such cases, the service member would face either a court-martial or a non-judicial action (Article 15).
Some of the penalties under Article 15:
- E-4 and below face loss of rank to E-1.
- Loss of 50 percent of two months’ pay.
- Up to 60 days of extra duties.
- Restriction to the garrison.
- E-5/E-6 rank lose one rank.
Most DWIs are handled as non-judicial actions; however, if it was a high BAC or there were aggravating circumstances, the DWI could be tried as a court-martial. The maximum punishment for a court-martial involving a DWI include dishonorable discharge, confinement for 18 months, and the loss of all allowances and pay.