Fighting against DUIs

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Josh Slavin
  • 355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Nov. 18, 2012, Staff Sgt. Norman La Voy, 355th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, was educated in the DUI process the hard way. After several drinks, La Voy made the decision to get behind the wheel and attempt to make a trip to a nearby convenience store.

Many drivers have the misconception that they are guarded from the law as long as they are not driving while over the legal blood alcohol concentration limit. However, it is unlawful for a person to be in actual physical control of a vehicle "if the person is impaired to the slightest degree."

"I drank too much but I wasn't thinking about going out," said La Voy. "I was kind of going through my own personal problems at the time, when I decided that I needed to go on a run to the store."

While on his way to the convenience store, La Voy drove through a stop sign and crashed into another vehicle carrying three passengers.

Even if a driver's BAC is under the legal limit, .08 in most states, an officer still has the right to arrest that individual if they deem the driver to be impaired.

"When I got pulled out of my vehicle I was pretty disoriented and didn't really realize what was going on," said La Voy. "The gravity of the situation really hit me when I realized there were three passengers in the other car."

While La Voy's story highlights the strain of being the cause of a DUI accident, in the case of Master Sgt. Monique Harris, 355th Operations Support Squadron unit deployment manager, a DUI profoundly affected her life in a very different and tragic way.

She was assigned to Osan AB, Republic of Korea when she received a call on Mother's Day in 2005 from her sister-in-law that her husband had just been critically injured. It was a motor vehicle accident caused by a drunk driver.

Her husband had gone with her brother for a night out. While returning home, her brother, who was impaired, fell asleep at the wheel.

Harris' husband received catastrophic injuries to the right side of his body as the vehicle they were in plowed into the rear end of a semi-truck.

Harris had to immediately make arrangements to leave her position at Osan AB and return to the states to care for her husband. The result was not only hardship on the family, but on the Air Force as well, causing manning to sink below optimal levels and stressing the force in a multitude of ways.

"For me - not being in the situation and not being a drinker, I just couldn't understand how the whole night went," Harris said. "I'm all about prevention not intervention. Think about the risk and how your decisions affect others."

He eventually would succumb to the injuries he had suffered that night on the road and Harris has been left to rebuild the broken pieces of her life.

Airmen are subject to local laws and may receive additional punishments under the uniformed code of military justice. Each DUI is looked at on a case by case situation, but all convicted Airmen could face possible loss of rank, loss of security clearance, court-martial, or administrative discharge.

La Voy has since met with a discharge board and is currently waiting to hear whether or not his career will be brought to an early end. While waiting on the ruling for his uncertain future, La Voy is still haunted by his past.

"I was about a foot away from probably killing somebody," said La Voy. "To this day I can still remember that person's face and I'll never forget that."

La Voy was demoted to Senior Airman, recommended for discharge by his commander, and has spent roughly $16,000 in fines and legal fees.

Harris lost something far greater, her husband.