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Photo by Sgt. Valerie C. Eppler

Driving under influence places high costs for all

9 Sep 2014 | Sgt. Valerie C. Eppler The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

It's Monday morning, and Marines stand in formation and collectively sigh as they hear about one of their own who did not heed the warnings. That failed to properly plan. That took an unnecessary risk and drove while under the influence.  That Marine made a decision that changed the way he or she is viewed by his or her peers, leadership, family and friends.

Before Marines secure on liberty, leave or holidays , almost without fail they are told by their senior leadership, “Do not drink and drive. Always have a plan, and a backup plan.”  It is a speech practically memorized by Marines of all ranks due to its frequent use.  

If a person does not heed the warning of their friends, or military leadership, or even the law, the best thing that can happen for that person who chooses to drink and drive is to be stopped by a police officer.  

There are numerous vehicular violations that may lead a military police officer to stop a person while driving on base. If a person is suspected of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol they will be given a standardized field sobriety test.  If the officer believes the person is under the influence, they will next have them blow into the blood alcohol content tester.

If the BAC is .08 or greater for a person over the age of 21, they will be taken into custody, given a citation and then released to their command. 

A person will automatically lose their on base driving privileges for 12 months if cited for a DUI, according to Gunnery Sgt. Joseph McManus, the assistant operations chief for the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton Police Department. 

For a person is under the age of 21, if the BAC is .01 or greater the same consequences apply. If you are under age and register as anything other than 0.0 on the BAC tester you will be cited with underage drinking. 

Ultimately, the punishment for someone who receives a DUI on base is up to the discretion of that person’s unit commanding officer.  At a minimum, the person will receive non-judicial punishment. 

The consequences vary depending on the rank of the person sent to NJP. The two most common forms of punishment resulting from an NJP are forfeiture of pay and reduction in grade, according to Lt. Col. Phillip D. Sanchez, a staff judge advocate with Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Marine Corps Installations West.  Additional punitive actions up to and including administrative separation may also be assigned at the unit commander’s discretion.

If a Marine shows a previous pattern of misconduct within the same enlistment, the punishment will likely be more severe.  Instead of going to NJP, that Marine would more likely go to a special court martial where they could face the most severe punishment of a bad-conduct discharge if found guilty, according to Sanchez.

The person who gets the DUI is not the only one affected.  In fact, almost everyone that person knows is affected in one way or another.  Disappointment, anger and mistrust are just a few feelings that affect the friends, family and coworkers of someone who makes the poor decision to drink then drive.

The Marine's family may also suffer financial problems in the aftermath of the DUI, and the Marine's chances of promotion and retention have also significantly dropped. Those are real costs of drunk driving.

Those taken into custody for drunk driving will be charged with violating UCMJ article 111 – drunken or reckless driving.

The tangible cost of a DUI can cost thousands of dollars, but can also lead to the loss of respect, career advancement and will be documented as a criminal record. As many leaders say, it’s just not worth it.