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Driving while intoxicated (DWI) charges are incredibly serious. However, if you are in any branch of the military a DWI can be the end of your career. Article 111 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) states operating any motor vehicle impaired by drugs or alcohol is a violation of military rules. 

The career-related consequences for a DWI are heavily influenced by where the offense occurred. If the DWI happened on civilian grounds, you may be subject to administrative penalties by your commanding officer such as lowered pay or rank. On the other hand, if your DWI was on a military installation you could be facing a court-martial trial. 

If you or someone you know has been charged with a DWI and is an active member of the military, it’s essential that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. 

DWI Attorney for Military in Harris County, Texas

Whether the DWI is in civilian or military court, you could face severe penalties. You may be punished by your commanding officer or tried in court-martial law. Any person whose been charged with a DWI and is a member of the military must seek trusted legal representation. 

Attorney Matthew Horak is skilled in both military and civilian law. He understands the logistics of military discipline, the procedures of court-marital law, and has a passion for defending uniformed service members. Don’t be idle in this process. Contact Matthew Horak for a reputable attorney today at (713) 225-8000

Horak Law accepts clients throughout the greater Houston metropolitan area and surrounding communities including Greenspoint, Gulfton, Houston Heights, and Brays Oaks.

Overview of DWI Consequences for Military in Texas

  • Military Consequences for a DWI Off Base
  • Military Consequences for a DWI On Base
  • Additional Resources

Military Consequences for a DWI Off Base

The main deciding factor for penalties of a DWI by military personnel is the location of the offense. Typically, if you’ve been arrested off base you’re likely to only face criminal charges in civilian court. If convicted, you may be forced to pay large fines and possibly face incarceration. 

The following chart outlines the DWI penalties for civilian court in Texas.

Number of Offenses:

Offense Level:

Jail/Prison Time:


First Offense

 Class B Misdemeanor

Minimum of 72 hours in jail; maximum of 180 days in jail


 Second Offense

 Class A Misdemeanor

 Minimum of 30 days in jail; maximum of 12 months in jail.


 Third Offense

 Third-Degree Felony

 Minimum of 2 years in prison; maximum of 10 years in prison.



Normally, a DWI conviction will include added conditions to sentencing. The following are some additional potential legal ramifications you may face if you’re tried for a DWI in civilian court.

  • Suspended driver’s license;
  • Community service hours;
  • Require installation of an ignition interlock device;
  • A drug and alcohol evaluation;
  • Participation in a court-ordered program;
  • Surcharges by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

In addition to civilian penalties, you could still be subject to administrative penalties by your commanding officer. While a commanding officer cannot detain you, he or she can impose penalties that they deem fit. Even if your charges were acquitted, you could still be subject to military consequences. 

Some of the penalties you could face from your commanding officer you may face if you’re charged with a DWI include, but are not limited to:  

  • Reduction in rank;
  • Reduction in pay;
  • Forfeiture of pay for a period of time;
  • Required substance abuse or alcohol evaluation;
  • Mandated treatment for abuse or alcohol dependency;
  • Loss of past privileges;
  • Letter of reprimand;
  • Restrictions to certain specified limits;
  • Correctional custody; or
  • Extra duties.

Military Consequences for a DWI On Base

If your DWI occurred on a military installation, the legal process for determining penalties is entirely different. UCMJ § 911 states if a person does any of the following he or she will be charged with a military DWI.

  • Operates a motor vehicle in a wanton manner or while impaired on a controlled substance;
  • Operates or is in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while drunk;
  • Operates a motor vehicle while his or her blood or breath-alcohol concentration (BAC) is one of the following:
    • The BAC limit of the state where the offense occurred;
    • If the military installation is in more than one state, then the limit is the BAC that the secretary chooses to apply to that installation;
    • 10 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood; or
    • 10 of alcohol per 210 liters of breath. 

Any DWI offense that happens on base will be held under court-martial. The court-martial process is essentially a military court that’s managed by military personnel. There are different types of court-martial trials based on the offense being tried. 

Special court-martial normally consists of no less than three officers acting as a jury or a military judge. You can also request to be charged solely by the military judge. Many misdemeanor offenses under the UCMJ are tried in special court-martial. Similar to traditional criminal courts, special court-martial will allow the defense an opportunity to present evidence and fight against your charges in court.

A special-court martial can impose career-related consequences including, but not limited to:

  • 12 months of confinement;
  • Forfeiture of two-third’s basic pay for six months;
  • A bad-conduct discharge; or
  • Other lesser forms of punishment.

General court-martial is a higher level of military court. The court consists of five court members acting as a jury, a military judge, the prosecution, and the defense. Similar to a special court-martial trial, you can request only to have the sole judge to deliberate your outcome. Normally, general court-martial is reserved for higher criminal offenses. The following are some possible penalties a person may face for a DWI in a general court-martial trial. 

  • Reduction of pay;
  • Reduction of rank;
  • Dishonorable or bad-conduct charge;
  • Confinement for no longer than 10 years;
  • Hard labor without confinement;
  • Dismissal as an officer; or
  • Other lesser forms of punishment. 

In addition to court-martial consequences, you may be subject to administrative penalties set by your commanding officer. Due to the serious nature of courts-martial proceedings, it’s vital that you have trusted legal representation on your side. An attorney can file motions, deliberate defense strategies, and battle for your career in court. 

Additional Resources 

Uniform Code of Military Justice – Visit the official website for the Uniform Code of Military Justice and find more information on disciplinary procedures. Learn the prohibited offenses by military law, how court-martial courts are run, and the military appeals process.

Drinking & Driving is a Crime – Visit the official website for the Texas Military Department and gain access to an article by Captain Martha Nigrelle. Learn more about Detective Mike Jennings DWI program to reduce drinking and driving in Texas. Here you can read more on how Detective Mike Jennings instructed soldiers of Texas Army National Guard about preventing DWI accidents, field sobriety tests, and chemical testing.

Lawyer for Military DWI Consequences in Harris County, Texas

If you or someone you know has been charged with a DWI and is an active member of military service, it’s crucial that you start taking steps now. Military personnel could face punishments from their commanding officer or have their trial under military law. Matthew Horak is a respected attorney with a strong focus in military DWI law. 

Matthew Horak has a passion for criminal defense. He respects and appreciates the services that military service men and women provide. Additionally, he understands the intricacies in both civilian court and courts-martial. Stay ahead of the charges now and call (713) 225-8000.

Horak Law accepts clients throughout the greater Harris County area and surrounding communities including Montgomery County, Fort Bend County, Galveston County, and Liberty County.

This article was last updated on November 28, 2018.


  • Texas Board of Legal Specialization | Criminal Law
  • National College for DUI Defense
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Laywers
  • Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association
  • Matt Horak has earned recognition for community leadership by Lawyer Legion