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Do military members with DUIs lose their security clearances?

On Behalf of | Oct 14, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Military members in Rhode Island and around the country can lose their driving privileges and be fined and sent to jail if they are convicted of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and they may also lose their security clearances. Security clearances are granted based on an individual’s trustworthiness and personal discipline, and problems with drugs or alcohol could raise questions about these character traits. This is especially true when a security clearance gives a service member access to top secret or classified information.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice

Driving drunk is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but a DUI will not always lead to a military member losing their security clearance and being suspended or demoted. The punishment a member receives for getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol is based on the nature and severity of the offense. Factors that could lead to a military member receiving harsher sanctions include having a blood alcohol concentration far in excess of the legal driving limit and being involved in an accident that caused significant property damage or serious injury or death.

Security clearance reviews

The military holds a review before stripping a service member of their security clearances. The officers who conduct these reviews evaluate both the nature of the individual and the nature of the offense, and they take a more lenient approach when a DUI appears to be an isolated incident. When a service member seems to have an ongoing problem with alcohol and their DUI was part of a pattern of reckless behavior, their security clearance is far more likely to be revoked.

A single mistake

Few people would join the military if a single mistake could end their careers. The Uniform Code of Military Justice lays down strict rules, but violating them does not always lead to harsh sanctions. A service member could retain their security clearance if a DUI is seen as an isolated incident, but they could lose their access to sensitive information if the facts suggest that they have a serious substance abuse problem.