Many people don't realize that reckless driving is a misdemeanor criminal offense, and a conviction can lead to fines, jail time, revocation of driving privilege, and/or high risk insurance premiums. For military service members, however, a reckless driving conviction can also be disastrous to their military careers. If you are in the military, whether you have been charged with reckless driving or have been lucky enough to not get caught driving recklessly yet, it's important for you to understand how a reckless driving conviction can affect your military service and what you can do if you've been charged with reckless driving.
Reckless Driving & UCMJ
Article 111 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice states that a service member who operates any vehicle in a reckless manner shall be punished in a court martial. Reckless driving is defined by the disregard of safety and knowingly placing yourself and others at high risk of injury or death by operating a vehicle in a negligent manner. As a military service member, you are required to report all criminal charges to your commanding officer and keep him or her abreast of civilian court procedures.
A resulting conviction could lead to a court martial. Reckless driving falls under the punitive articles in the UCMJ, which could result in a bad-conduct discharge, a forfeiture of pay, and/or 6 months of confinement. If personal injury was caused by reckless driving, it could mean a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of pay, and 18 months of confinement.
A conviction of reckless driving could cause you to lose a security clearance or cause you to be unable to obtain a security clearance in the future, even if you are not discharged from the military. Depending on your MOS (military occupation specialty), this could result in the inability to continuing performing the job duties of your MOS or receive orders for particular duty stations where security clearances are an absolute must-have.
Fighting a Reckless Driving Charge
Given the serious consequences of how a reckless driving conviction could affect your military career, it is highly recommended to hire a criminal defense attorney to represent you in civilian criminal court. There are different strategies of defense that are utilized by criminal defense attorneys to help their clients fight convictions such as reckless driving. When you sit with your attorney during the initial consultation, explain to him or her that you are in the military and not only fighting the reckless driving conviction but also to keep your military status.
One of the first things a criminal defense attorney will ask you to do, especially if you were also charged with excessive speeding, is to have your vehicle's speedometer calibrated by a professional mechanic who is certified to perform these tests by the state in which you were charged with reckless driving. This is done because, sometimes, speedometers can be off enough to cause a driver to unknowingly speed in excess. Your attorney may ask you to have the vehicle you were driving inspected to determine the condition it was in at the time of the arrest, particularly if you were also charged with operating an unsafe vehicle.
Most attorneys recommend trying to reduce the offense, especially when it's clear that the defendant was driving recklessly to some extent. Asking the civilian court for a reduction in the charge can help military service members avoid a court martial. This may involve agreeing to completing driver's education classes or clinics that are designed to specifically for driver improvement. If your duty station is located in a different state, you'll need to make the civilian court aware that these requirements will need to be met in another state.
For more information, be sure to talk to an attorney at firms like Nelson Fromer & Crocco Law Offices.