The cost of a DUI

A DUI will cost you more than just fixing your car. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John Easterling)

A DUI will cost you more than just fixing your car. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brian J. Ellis)

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- Throughout our Air Force careers, we're consistently reminded of the severity of driving under the influence. We face fines, license suspensions and possible demotion. Without taking into account the cost of a life we could take with our carelessness, a DUI can take quite a toll on our wallet, especially living in England. 

A $60 investment could save an Airman more than $10,000, their career and possibly their life. 

According to Capt. Benjamin Martin, 48th Fighter Wing military justice programs chief, there are five things people can be charged with when driving under the influence off base. Four of the charges carry a maximum $10,000 fine and six months imprisonment. 

Those charges are:
-Driving or attempting to drive with excess alcohol
-Being in charge of a vehicle with excess alcohol
-Driving or attempting to drive while unfit through drink or drugs
-Failing to give a specimen (of breath, blood or urine) at a police station or at the roadside. 

"If you get a lawyer to represent you, the fee is around $80 to $240 per hour," he said. "It's $80 for waiting time at court and up to $240 for actually appearing in court. Not to mention research time, each call they make and each letter they write to you or to someone else regarding your case." 

A Liberty Wing staff sergeant was stopped by the local constabulary March 16 on the A11 adjacent to Red Lodge. He failed sobriety tests and had a breath alcohol content of 0.285 percent; the legal limit is 0.08 percent. He paid $1,520 in fines, received a letter of reprimand and is pending administrative demotion. His license was also suspended for one year. 

Keeping in mind that everything paid in pounds is practically doubled, the fine he had to pay was a significant amount. Upon demotion, he will lose about $200 a month in his base pay, his cost of living allowance will decrease and his housing allowance will drop about $200 a month. 

All of this financial grief could have been avoided by just calling a cab that would have cost him around $50 to $60. 

In addition to financial strain, getting a DUI also affects an Airman' s career in other ways.
"Losing a stripe does have monetary consequences, but there is more to consider," said Chief Master Sgt. Mitchell Balutski, 48th Mission Support Group chief enlisted manager. "If you get demoted, you're way behind the power curve for promotion and you may never catch up." 

He said a non-commissioned officer can also lose their status as a leader and example; they almost have to start all over. 

So the next time you're ordering that last drink and fiddling with the keys in your pocket, ask yourself: Do I really want to pay $10,000 in fines, lose a stripe, and have to move to a new place because I can't afford mine anymore? Or, can I spend $60, call a cab and pick up my car in the morning? The choice is yours, be smart about it.