ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. — Itâ€™s 2:15 a.m. and the bar just closed. An Airman and his wingmen stumble out to their vehicle. The designated driver tells the group he had a few beers, but he doesnâ€™t feel drunk. They all pile into the vehicle and begin driving toward the base. As the driver messes with the radio, he misses a stop sign.
Next thing he knows there are flashing red and blue lights in his rear-view mirror and his heart drops to his stomach. The officer proceeds to the driver-side window and asks the question that will forever change this Airmanâ€™s life: â€œSir, have you been drinking this evening?â€
Driving under the influence can cause serious physical damage, but it can also kill a personâ€™s bank account.
â€œIf you get busted for a DUI here in Altus, with a .08 blood alcohol content, you are looking at 5 days to 1 year of jail time, and a minimum fine of $1,000,â€ said Staff Sgt. Christopher M. Taylor, 97th Air Mobility Wing NCO in charge of civil law.
â€œThat fee is doubled if you have a child younger than 18-years-old in the vehicle,â€ Taylor said. â€œYou will have a license suspension of 30 days. You have to participate in an assessment and evaluation for treatment. The minimum DUI fee is $300 and you are looking at either a reduction in pay or a demotion.â€
According to attorneyfee.com, the average fee for DUI defense ranges between $1,000 and $3,000.
â€œYou are looking at minimum of $4,000 and that is not including court fees or attorney cost,â€ Taylor said.
Along with court and attorney fees, an Airman who is convicted of a DUI may also receive a reduction in rank or forfeiture of one-half of his monthly salary for a maximum of two months.
If a senior airman who has been in the Air Force for four years is convicted of a DUI and his commander decides to make him forfeit two months of his base pay, he will lose $1,133 each month, Taylor said. For individuals E-4 and below, the commander can automatically demote them to E-1. If the individual is a non-commissioned officer, they can be demoted one rank.
There are many resources here to prevent Airmen from driving under the influence.
â€œHave a plan before you go out,â€ said Joshua Leach, 97th Security Forces Squadron lead investigator. â€œIf you want to have a good time thatâ€™s great, but have a plan. There are so many resources available in this area that prevents DUIs that it is really dumb to drive drunk.â€
Resources include Airmen Against Drunk Driving, taxis, and fellow wingmen.
â€œIf you have to think about if you are able to drive or not you shouldnâ€™t drive,â€ Leach said. â€œIf you have to convince yourself you are good to drive, then you arenâ€™t. Itâ€™s about a $30 taxi ride from anywhere in town, which sounds a lot better than $3,000.â€