What Are the Costs Associated With a DUI?
SmartFinancial Offers Unbiased, Fact-based Information. Our fact-checked articles are intended to educate insurance shoppers so they can make the right buying decisions. Learn More
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that an average of 28 people die every day from alcohol-related vehicle accidents, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 1 million drivers drive under the influence every year. Those who drink, drive and operate a motor vehicle while their blood alcohol content is above the legal limit of 0.08 are committing an act that is both illegal and dangerous. Alcohol impairs judgement and driving ability.
So, let’s paint a hypothetical but common scenario of what a person would legally and financially go through after being arrested for a first-time DUI conviction. Let the offender be named Sam, who is in their early twenties out celebrating a friend’s birthday at the bar and decided to drive home alone instead of ordering a $20 cab.
What Can a DUI Lawyer Do?
There was a trail of knocked over trash cans and dinged parked cars left in Sam’s wake before Sam was pulled over, but luckily no one was injured, and in most states, this first-time DUI offense will be classified as a misdemeanor. Because it’s a DUI, Sam will go to court for an arraignment, will be formally charged, and will have to plead guilty or not guilty.
This is Sam’s first run-in with the law, and he knows that it’s in Sam’s best interest to accept legal aid. How much one costs depends on the complexity of the situation and depends on if you accept a plea or take your case to trial; lawyers may charge $700-$1,500 when accepting a plea, and $1,500-$4,000 when going to trial.
And then like most attorneys, DUI attorneys offer an hourly or flat rate option.
Depending on the lawyer and location, you may pay $200 to $500 per hour. The advantage here is that if your case is resolved quickly, you will not overpay.
A flat rate is a fee that covers the entire time-span of the case and depends on your circumstances. Expect to pay around $3,000
At the end of the arraignment, at a judge’s discretion, the judge may order you to spend some time in the county jail, which can be anywhere between two days to one year or sentence court supervision which can last anywhere between one and two years.
In Sam’s case, although Sam plead guilty, with a good lawyer, the judge agreed to take jail-time off the table as long as Sam completes all the conditions of supervision that included community service, fines, and a license suspension. It’s important to note that if Sam did put someone at risk and they died, there would be little to no leniency and jail-time is not uncommon, even for first time offenders. And it doesn’t have to end in death for you to land in jail either, for example, if you have a child in the vehicle during your DUI offense, your charge could require you to be sentenced to up to six months in jail for child endangerment.
Driver’s License Problems
For many, a driver's license suspension can be very damaging since transportation is essential for those who may need a car to drive far for work, who need to pick up their children from school, and those who need to run essential errands. If you're a commercial driver, your license is basically your livelihood. Again, it depends on the state and the nature of the offense if an individual’s driver’s license is to be restricted, suspended, or revoked for anytime lasting between 3 months to forever.
In some states, including the one Sam lives in, the arresting officer confiscated the driver’s license at the time of the arrest, and like the majority of cases, Sam was faced with an automatic license suspension for six months and had the option to apply for a restricted license or breathalyzer device. This allowed Sam to be able to drive to work and to mandatory treatment programs for community service.
The entire process of getting a DUI is extremely expensive. When you are charged with a DUI, you will need to pay a set fine. So, for a first-time offense, Sam is expected to pay a $400 fine but this varies between state and offense can cost anywhere between $300-$2,000. However, if a driver’s blood alcohol concentration is above 0.15% or a passenger under the age of 18 was present in the vehicle, you will face a fine closer to $2,000 or if you caused an injury to another individual, you may pay a fine that’s $5,000 or more. Setting aside Sam’s situation, a general estimation of fines and expenses that are typically incurred after a DUI can include
- Attorney fees as described above can cost between $700-$4,000
- Bail from jail can cost from $100-$2,500
- Fee for sentencing can cost $100-$250
- Fee for probation can cost from $200-$1,200
- Fees that come with random urine or drugs screenings often cost around $100
- When individuals must perform community service, there may be a fee associated with community service supervision, which is typically under $100
- Fees that come with taking treatment or educational classes on substance abuse. These classes and programs can run from $1,000-$3,000
- Car towing or impound fees is generally between $100-$1,200.
- Many states require offenders to have their vehicles retro-fitted with an ignition interlock device. This requires that you pay for the device, its installation, and a monthly monitoring fee which in total can cost between $500-$1,500
- Licensing fees and license reinstatement can cost between $20-$200.
- Many individuals will need some form of alternate transportation if their license is suspended or revoked. This leads to needing to pay for those buses, taxicabs, or paying others friends and family members for their time and their gas can expect to pay anywhere between $100 and $1,000 for reliable transportation
Expect to Pay More Money for Car Insurance
Individuals who have DUI offenses on their record pay significantly higher premiums for car insurance. In severe enough cases, insurance companies may drop them altogether, and individuals may be forced to seek out insurance companies that will accept their high-risk profile.
Sam did wreak havoc by dinging multiple cars, so Sam’s insurance provider was forced to raise the premiums and required Sam to fill out an SR-22 form. When you get your driver's license back, you will most likely need to fill out an SR-22 insurance form (this is a vehicle liability insurance form required by most state DMVs for high-risk insurance policies).
On average, you can expect to pay higher premiums for three years, which equates to an annual premium that’s around $2,000-$3000 more than those who have a clean driving record. Again, this depends on the state, type of offense, what insurance company you are with, and how many offenses you have incurred.
When driving under the influence, your abilities will be impaired even if your blood alcohol content is below the legal limit. There is an obvious danger to you and other civilians when operating a vehicle that you cannot fully control and there are laws in place to avoid these types of dangerous situations that can result in far worse consequences than just a DUI on your record.
If you already have a DUI or multiple DUIs on your record, let SmartFinancial help you compare the costs associated with your car insurance rates. Of the 200+ insurance carriers SmartFinancial partners with, some specialize in high-risk insurance rates that are hard to beat.