Accidents involving impaired drivers cause some 10,000 deaths in the United States each year. If you are arrested and later convicted for a DUI, you may face jail time, a mandatory community service requirement, the suspension or revocation of your license, and other penalties. And your legal trouble will haunt you for many years to come, possibly preventing you from getting the jobs and housing that you want.
These are all excellent reasons not to get behind the wheel after drinking or using drugs, but there will also be some serious financial consequences. In fact, according to the Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles, getting just one DUI as a first-timer could end up costing you the same amount of money as a taxi ride of over 12,000 miles — that’s halfway across the globe!
In the Immediate Wake of Arrest
If you are arrested under suspicion of driving while intoxicated, you will be taken to jail. It’s likely that you’ll have to spend at least a few hours there, or stay the night, before being arraigned. At that point, the judge will set your bail, and you will need to arrange for a friend or family member to work with a bail bondsman to secure your release.
Bail can cost you as little as a couple of hundred dollars, or as much as several thousand, depending on your charges. While you’ll eventually get your money back once you go to trial or take a plea deal, it is still necessary to hand over some cash if you want to be bonded out.
Attorneys and Court Costs
Once you’re out on bail, your next step is to contact an attorney. Even with a public defender, you will be looking at legal costs in the neighborhood of $1,500-$5,000 — and that’s only if you’re a first offender. Subsequent offenses or additional charges will drive that total even higher.
Punitive Fines and Fees
A first DUI charge can result in a fine ranging from $150 to $2,000. Again, this amount depends on the particulars of your case.
In addition to these straightforward fines, you can also expect fees for spending time in jail, for sentencing, and for probation. These will total anywhere between $200 and $2,000. Some states also levy driver responsibility fees, which can be up to $2,500.
Probation costs money, as well. Expect to pay up to $1,200 for this.
Almost everyone who is convicted of an impaired driving charge will be mandated to take an alcohol awareness and traffic safety course before they can complete probation or get their license back.
These classes are offered by private companies, which means that their costs can vary widely. It’s not unusual to spend a couple thousand dollars on educational courses for DUIs.
Ignition Interlock Devices
In many states, even first-time offenders can be ordered to have an ignition interlock device installed on any vehicle to which they have access. These devices are costly, typically ranging from $500 to $1,500.
The Price of Public Transportation
While you are awaiting your license reinstatement, you’ll be dependent on public transportation, ride sharing, or the kindness of friends and family members acting as chauffeurs. It’s difficult to estimate how much money buses, subways, Ubers, and the like will set you back, since it depends on which method of transportation you use and how often you use it.
“Unless you are lucky enough to live in a walkable neighborhood, or you can ride your bike to work and to run errands, you will need to factor in transportation costs,” says Mark Rees, of Rees law firm DUI attorney Jonesboro.
Getting Your Car and License Back
It will feel like a huge relief to complete the terms of your probation and can start the process of having your license reinstated. However, you can’t put your checkbook away just yet.
You’re still facing towing and/or impound fees, fees that the DMV charges to sort out your license, and what will likely be a significant hike in your auto insurance premiums. Insurance companies don’t take kindly to people who drink and drive.
Of course, this doesn’t even include repair costs if your impaired driving led to an automobile accident.
In the Final Analysis
Each state in the nation is different, but there’s no doubt that you’ll be in debt to the tune of thousands of dollars, no matter where your conviction occurs. In New York, the minimum cost of a first-time DUI comes in just under $10K; Texans can expect to pay, on average, between $9,000 and $24,000.