Drinking and driving from an offender's perspective

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Michael Stuno
  • 21st Operations Group
The social pressures of drinking are ever present, but should not infringe on the need for responsibility to yourself and the community at large. Unfortunately, drinking and driving is an extremely common case in today's society, and has caused many senseless injuries and deaths. The laws have become stricter but the problem still exists. The effects of alcohol on a driver of a motor vehicle have been studied and displayed on many television shows and radio stations, yet the general public still continues to commit this serious offense.

Here is how I made my mistake.

Some friends of mine from Denver have a band and were playing at a local live music venue. I had not seen them in a long time and decided to go see the show. My plan was to not drink and drive myself home, and the plan was going great until the band finished their set. I sat down at the bar with them to catch up on old times. As we were talking, the guys ordered a round of drinks and gave me one as well. I thought to myself one beer will be OK.

We continued to chat and another round was ordered and I thought since it had been a while since I finished the last one, I will be fine. Some more time passed and they ordered another round and gave me one again. I again thought to myself this is the last one, I will not have any more for the night.

The bar lights turned on and the bartender announced closing time. I still had some of my beer left. I finished the rest and I felt completely in control and had no reservations about driving home. As I started home, I reached for my cell phone on the floor of my truck and bumped the curb. The police officer following me, turned on his flashing lights and pulled me over.

I was administered a field sobriety test. I failed the test and the officer arrested me, took me to the police station and gave me a breathalyzer test. The legal limit for Colorado to be charged with Driving Under the Influence is .080; my results were .084. After all the processing of paper work, I was allowed to call a friend to pick me up from the police station and give me a ride to somewhere other than my truck.

This should have been my back up plan in the first place.

The next day I had to let my leadership know what happened.

After replaying the event over and over in my head, I realized I drank the three beers in a relatively short period of time. I think this was because I was talking and not paying attention to the clock or the actual time between drinks. This is another common problem with trying to regulate your drinking and thinking you will be OK.

Since the arrest in September, I have paid a civilian lawyer to defend my case in the Colorado Springs court system, as well as the Department of Revenue for my driving privileges off-base. The State of Colorado treats civil court actions and driving privileges as two separate issues. The District Attorney then transferred jurisdiction back to the Air Force.

I was charged and convicted under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for driving a motor vehicle while drunk, demoted to technical sergeant, and even though I have an approved retirement date, I will now retire at that grade. Air Force instructions stipulate if you are demoted prior to retirement your pay will be calculated at your current grade, known as "final pay." So the normal calculations of "high three" no longer apply, and will cost me thousands in retirement.

As a proud member of the Air Force, I have learned so much over my 19 year career. I have been told and witnessed the tragic consequences of drinking and driving, and I still made the decision to get behind the wheel after drinking. There are many alternatives to drinking and driving: Airmen Against Drunk Driving (552-2233), a taxi, your chain of command or just do not drink.

I have now taken the stance "One drink is too many" to drive a vehicle. I now have a plan before I ever leave the house and I stick to the plan. I have many good friends that will not let me break this mantra as well and always ask if they see me out, "What is your plan tonight?"

Please let my story be a warning to you - that drink you have at the bar could cost you much more than the price you paid to the bartender. It could cost you your life.