By Capt. Robyn Schaperjahn
CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea – The consequences stemming from combining alcohol or a controlled substance with operating a motor vehicle makes the decision to refrain from driving impaired an easy and obvious choice. However, everyday someone makes the fatal decision to drive while under the influence. It is important to be aware of these consequences not only for your own knowledge, but also to help educate our community and deter this life-threatening behavior.
Aside from the risks to one’s life and the lives of others, a soldier who drives under the influence may face criminal and administrative actions. U.S. Forces Korea regulations require an immediate license suspension of a person suspected of drunk driving until the matter is resolved. If convicted for DUI or the soldier refuses a test to determine his blood alcohol content level, his license must be revoked for one year. If found driving while under suspension of revocation, the soldier will lose his license for five years. Further, traffic points will be added to a soldier’s record if convicted or made to pay a fine under either Korean traffic laws or USFK regulations. Once six or more points have accumulated in six months, he will be required to attend remedial training.
The consequences of a DUI do not stop with measures taken at your installation here in Korea. According to USFK Reg. 190-1, if the soldier’s installation driving privileges are revoked for one year or more, following a conviction for DUI or refusal to test for BAC, area commanders will notify the state motor vehicle agency which issued the offender’s license.
Different from U.S. laws, the USFK Reg. 190-1 matches Korean Traffic Law Article 41 by lowering the BAC level to .05 percent. Under the ROK laws, if an agreement is met between two parties involved in an accident, the driver at fault may be relieved from criminal punishment. Further, an open-ended comprehensive insurance policy may allow for such an agreement. However, if injuries occur in result of a DUI, criminal punishment may ensue regardless of an actual agreement or an insurance policy.
Under both USFK and ROK law and regulation, a driver with a BAC level of .05 percent or greater will automatically be charged with a DUI. Under Korean traffic law, the maximum sentencing is up to three years of confinement and 10 million won. The collateral consequences are high in the Korean legal system as trial sessions can last up to one year, and will result in suspension and possible revocation of the USFK driver’s license. During the trial period, the soldier will be on international hold and will not be allowed to leave the Republic of Korea.
The ROK has primary jurisdiction to prosecute a Soldier for DUIs off post, but may waive this right. If the ROK chooses to prosecute him, then regardless of the outcome of the case, it is against U.S. Army policy to administer a Uniform Code of Military Justice action for the same offense. However, this does not prevent punitive actions for additional misconduct that is not being prosecuted by the ROK, such as assault or damage to property.
There are also administrative actions that are available regardless of whether the ROK claims jurisdiction or if UCMJ action is initiated. For example, in the case of a DUI or refusal to test BAC, a general officer memorandum of reprimand is mandatory. After reviewing service records of the offender, commanders may deem it appropriate to institute an administrative reduction, a bar to re-enlistment, and even an administrative discharge.
If a soldier is stopped on-post for DUI, he may face nonjudicial punishment in the form of an Article 15 or judicial punishment through a trial by court-martial. Soldiers may face violations of Article 92, Failure to Obey Order or Regulation; or Article 111, Drunken or Reckless Operation of a Vehicle, Aircraft, or Vessel.
Per the USFK regulations, commanders are required to establish programs to minimize the contribution of alcohol and drugs as causal factors in traffic accidents. Some of the ways that our commanders emphasize these countermeasures are by using special patrols, roadblock programs, and requiring the referral of DUI offenders, soldier or civilian, to the Army Substance Abuse Program. ASAP provide services which are proactive and responsive to the needs of the Army’s workforce and emphasize alcohol and drug abuse deterrence, prevention, education, and rehabilitation.
Driving while under the influence is a serious offense that may result in the loss of your license, your military career, and the loss of lives. Remember that while living in Korea, respect the people and the country’s laws by driving responsibly and safely.
By Capt. Robyn Schaperjahn