Don't let a DUI make your tour in Germany a bad trip

By Keith PannellJanuary 31, 2020

Germany has strict drunk driving laws. A Blood Alcohol Content of 0.05% can result in a 500 Euro fine, a one-month driving suspension and a two-point reduction on a driver's license, for a first offense.
(Photo courtesy of Polizei, Rheinland-Pfalz s... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany - With the Super Bowl and Fasching (the German equivalent of Mardi Gras) just around the corner, there is no shortage of opportunities to celebrate, and garrison leadership reminds the community to do so responsibly when it comes to alcohol and possible driving under the influence (DUI).

"DUIs are one our biggest calls for service, because the German police are very aggressive with their sobriety checkpoints off-post," said Lt. Josh Manuel, U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz Military Police station commander.

According to host-nation DUI laws, violating 0.05% blood alcohol concentration or driving under the influence of drugs will result in the following consequences:

• First Offense: €500 fine, two point reduction and one-month driving suspension

• Second Offense: €1,000 fine, two point reduction and a three-month driving suspension

• Third Offense: €1,500 fine, two point reduction and a three-month suspension.

Tougher DUI penalties and fines are issued by host-nation authorities if drivers endanger road traffic or their blood alcohol content is greater than 0.109%, and USAREUR suspensions are even longer for DUI offenses (see below).

German Polizei can conduct breathalyzer testing on scene when DUI is suspected, or (in cases of refusal) they can transport a U.S. service member, civilian or family member to the German police station where they are given a breathalyzer and a report is made. The MPs are then called and collect copies of the evidence from the Polizei. After that, the process differs depending on if the driver is military or civilian.

"We transport Soldiers to the Vogelweh MP station for processing," said Manuel. "Once at the station, we get another evidentiary breathalyzer, collect their fingerprints, seize their USAREUR Driver's License, issue them their driving suspension memo and sign them over to their unit representative, a Sergeant 1st Class or above. We give the Soldier instructions to return approximately 12 hours later for rights advisement, because we do not do this portion of the processing until the subject is of complete sound mind."

A civilian or family member may be held at the MP station until someone can pick them up, or until they are sober enough to leave.

"Although U.S. civilian drivers with DUIs have host-nation penalties and fines to contend with, they may also be subject to administrative discipline by their employer (garrison, contractor, etc.)," said Rick Anderson, USAG RP Civilian Misconduct officer.

Besides fines and administrative actions, one of the costliest penalties for DUI is the loss of driving privileges, which is more stringent than the host-nation suspensions for those with a USAREUR license.

"According to AER 190-1, operation of a vehicle with 0.05 to 0.079% BAC will be a mandatory 90-day license suspension; 0.08% BAC or higher is a mandatory license revocation with petitioned reinstatement authorized after one year," Anderson explained. "People who commit a second offense lose their license for five years; a third offense prohibits them from ever possessing a U.S. Forces Certificate of License again."

A Soldier or civilian could live up to an hour from their place of duty and must be able to find an alternate way to get anywhere they need to go. A Soldier's commander or a civilian employee's supervisor may request relief from the driving suspension from the garrison commander.

However, garrison commanders across Europe are known to be strict on DUIs and petitions for relief are rarely granted.

"There are plenty of alternatives to getting behind the wheel impaired," said Col. Jason T. Edwards, USAG RP Commander. "Call a cab. Call a buddy. Call your unit. People have to make better decisions. It's simply not worth it."

"You have to have a plan and you need to stick to that plan," added Lt. Col. Victor Baez-An, USAG RP Director of Emergency Services. "Driving is a privilege, not a right. Everyone has to follow the rules of the road, whether you are in Texas, Hawaii or Germany."

DUIs, which also include being under the influence of drugs, are preventable. USAG RP has several resources and support agencies that can assist in addressing the causes of DUIs, alcohol and drug abuse.

Some of the resources available include the Army Substance Abuse Program, Substance Use Disorder Clinical Care Program, Employee Assistance Program, Family Advocacy Program, Adolescent Support and Counseling Services and several other organizations to help people struggling with difficult issues. For more information call Army Community Service at 0611-143-641-9000 in Kaiserslautern or in Baumholder call ACS at 0611-143-531-2850.