Health & Safety

May 17, 2012

Driving drunk incurs a hefty price – literally

Airman 1st Class Kenneth W. Norman
97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
(U.S. Air Force illustrative photo/Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane)

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. — It’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 doesn’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 Airman’s life: “Sir, have you been drinking this evening?”

Driving under the influence can cause serious physical damage, but it can also kill a person’s bank account.

“If 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,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher M. Taylor, 97th Air Mobility Wing NCO in charge of civil law.

“That fee is doubled if you have a child younger than 18-years-old in the vehicle,” Taylor said. “You 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.”

According to, the average fee for DUI defense ranges between $1,000 and $3,000.

“You are looking at minimum of $4,000 and that is not including court fees or attorney cost,” 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.

“Have a plan before you go out,” said Joshua Leach, 97th Security Forces Squadron lead investigator. “If you want to have a good time that’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.”

Resources include Airmen Against Drunk Driving, taxis, and fellow wingmen.

“If you have to think about if you are able to drive or not you shouldn’t drive,” Leach said. “If you have to convince yourself you are good to drive, then you aren’t. It’s about a $30 taxi ride from anywhere in town, which sounds a lot better than $3,000.”

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