By 52nd Fighter Wing Staff Judge Advocates Office
/ Published March 30, 2007
SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, GERAMNY -- --
At the legal office, we frequently advise commanders and first sergeants when one of their Airmen is caught driving under the influence or is involved in an alcohol-related incident. Recently, we noticed that members of the Saber population are receiving advice from "barracks lawyers" that is a little off the mark.
The 52nd Fighter Wing legal office does not endorse the "barracks lawyer" approach to legal services for many reasons. Every case is different; despite what a "barracks lawyer" may have said, there are no "standard hits" in this wing. However, for those who are wondering what could happen if your wingman or you are caught DUI or are involved in an ARI, read and learn the truth behind the "barracks lawyer" myths.
Your license cannot be suspended unless you are court-martialed. Wrong! It is a privilege to drive in Germany. This privilege can be revoked if you receive a DUI, even if you never step into a court room. First time DUI offenses result in a driving revocation from 180 days to two years. Multiple DUIs result in driving revocations of five years to indefinite revocation. In addition, many U.S. states suspend your license no matter where the DUI was received, and be assured your state will find out if you get a DUI at Spangdahlem Air Base.
Your commander cannot do anything if you receive a DUI downtown. Wrong! If you receive a DUI from the Polizei, the local governments can take action. They can suspend drivers' license and impose fines. These actions do not preclude the wing from suspending your driver's license as well, or your commander from giving out a Letter of Counseling, Letter of Reprimand, creating an Unfavorable Information File or placing you on a control roster. In most cases, the German government automatically allows the commander to take action against their Airmen. This can result in an Article 15 punishment or even a court-martial.
The worst thing that can happen if you receive a first-time DUI is an LOR or maybe an Article 15 with a fine. You definitely won't go to a court-martial. Wrong! Commanders have a wide range of options to consider when an Airman receives a DUI. That range starts with nothing and includes anything from an LOC to an LOR to an Article 15 to a court-martial, even for a first offense. If your commander decides to impose an Article 15 and you are an E-4 or below, you can be reduced to E-1. If you are an E-5 to E-7, your commander can reduce you one grade. The 3rd Air Force commander issues Article 15s to E-8, E-9 and officers -- ouch! Anyone can be fined up to one half one month's pay for two months, be restricted to base for 60 days and receive 45 days extra duty. If you go before a court-martial, you can be confined 30 days to six months depending on the type of court-martial. You can receive a bad conduct discharge, be reduced to E-1 and receive total forfeitures of pay an allowance. If you injure someone while drinking and driving, you can be confined up to 18 months and receive a dishonorable discharge.
I heard about a chief that got a DUI when he was an Airman and he did alright. So even if you get a DUI, you don't have anything to worry about. Wrong! As we all know, the Air Force environment is constantly changing. Additionally, the Air Force currently must reduce its force. To achieve this goal, AFPC has implemented rollbacks. That is, forcing people out of the Air Force if they meet certain criteria. If you receive a DUI, you may get caught in a rollback and forced out of the Air Force. Also, commanders have other administrative options at their disposal. First, your commander may elect to discharge you from the Air Force with a General or Under Other than Honorable service characterization. The commander can also deny your request to re-enlist in the Air Force. There is no automatic right to re-enlist in the Air Force. Your supervisor and/or commander can recommend that you receive a referral Enlisted Performance Report or Officer Performance Report for a DUI. That can affect your ability to achieve promotion goals. If you have already tested, you may be "red-lined" and not promoted, even if you were selected. If you are an officer, senior NCO, technical sergeant or a staff sergeant, a DUI, no matter what action your commander takes, may end your chances for promotion and your Air Force career.
If you get in a fight and don't remember what happened, you won't get into trouble. Wrong! If you get into a fight while drunk, you can be charged for assault under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, even if you don't remember. Your commander can impose an Article 15, which carries the same punishment as a DUI. Your commander can take the same administrative actions, such as a discharge, denial of reenlistment, and referral EPR/OPR. However, if your commander sends you before a court-martial, the punishment can be severe depending on the facts of the case. The amount of confinement could be for many years; recently a Saber received 28 months confinement. In addition, you could receive a dishonorable discharge, reduction to E-1 and total forfeiture of all pay and allowances.
Well, DUIs are a personal problem. Wrong! Receiving a DUI, on or off base, is everyone's problem. Commanders, first sergeants and supervisors must take time out of their busy schedules to attend to your problem. Processing an Article 15 can take 20 days. That does not include everything that must be done to ensure the punishment is carried out. If you go before a court-martial, it takes even more time. Fellow Wingmen must also spend their time covering your work duties because you are out of the shop. If you are discharged, your unit must take time to pick up your workload and train your replacement when they arrive. Your absence creates a void and puts a strain on troops who work hard every day to complete the Air Force mission. Finally, your DUI affects your family. Think about it -- you cannot drive, you may lose money and rank, and, if you are court-martialed and confined, your family loses one of their loved ones. Before you decide to drink and drive, think about what you will tell your husband/wife, mother/father, son/daughter if you are court-martialed or receive an Article 15.