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DUI no longer excusable for on-duty military personnel

Date Posted: 2011-12-23

The jurisdiction over crimes and accidents that involved civilian employees

American military personnel who become involved in traffic accidents after drinking, even while on duty attending official functions, are no longer exempt from facing Japanese justice.

The Status of Forces Agreement has been revised, and the way U.S. service personnel are to be treated is now changed. The Japan-U.S. Joint Committee has reevaluated its interpretation of the SOFA, and decided “drinking intoxicating beverages shall remove such person from his official duty status.” In simple turns, those drinks are no longer protected, and DUI’s and accidents will put the service member into the hands of Japanese police and prosecutors.

Until now, Japan has had no authority to bring U.S. military personnel to justice if they had committed those crimes while on duty in Japan. Examination of the SOFA, and the subsequent revisions to the bilateral SOFA, was reached last month to give Japan full authority in cases of civilian U.S. employees who are on duty, at least in certain cases.

Japan’s Foreign Minister, Koichiro Genba, has briefed Okinawa’s Governor, Hirokazu Nakaima, of the new arrangements. Changes are being viewed as a step by both Japan and the U.S. to ease tensions over the issue of relocating Futenma Marine Corps Air Station from Ginowan City to a location in northern Okinawa.

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