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The High Cost of DUIs – Sticker Shock That Follows You

Young woman pulls her hair out of frustration confused by all the insurance options after getting a DUI

Across the country, states are coming down hard on driving-under-the-influence (DUI) offenders. If you thought pain at the pump was bad, you won’t want to be on the receiving end of a DUI conviction. It’s a financial hurricane that will affect you for years to come, and if you weren’t lucky enough to buy Google at ten dollars, your wallet is going to be noticeably lighter.

Even if you didn’t cause property damage or physically injure anyone, by the time you pay bail, fines, fees and insurance, and other associated costs, a typical first DUI can easily run upwards of $10,000.

Here’s a representative breakdown of the variety of charges that “one-for-the-road” drink could cost you. This sample list of costs assumes no property damage, personal injury or third-party liability.

Bail: Your get out of jail card ranges from $150-$2,500.

Legal fees: $2,500 to $25,000

  • Investigator ($1,000 to $3,000) to interview witnesses, transcribe the police video
  • Expert witnesses to testify about the accuracy of field sobriety tests ($3,000 and up)
  • Trial costs can be closer to $20,000

Alcohol education and treatment: $150-$2,000 for basic treatment. If you’re convicted, you usually have to undergo an education or treatment program. Treatment can vary widely in scope and duration. In California, a DUI Education Program for First-Time Offenders consists of a three-month, 30-hour alcohol and drug education and counseling program. It costs approximately $500 to $600.

Alcohol-monitoring leg bracelet: Approximately $100 to install and about $10 per day, or $300 per month.

Automobile insurance increase (over 10 years): Approximately $8500listed as high-risk driver.

DMV license re-issue fee: $125 (California)

Jail booking, fingerprinting, and photo processing: $160

Ignition Interlock Device: $75/month.  If this court-ordered device detects alcohol on your breath, the engine won’t start. As you drive, you are periodically required to provide breath samples to ensure the continued absence of alcohol in your system.

Towing: $100-$1,200. When you’re arrested, your car is towed. In some areas, retrieving it may cost from $100-200. One mid-Western city charges about $1,200 for the first 24 hours and $50 for each additional day of storage. Adding insult to injury, if you can’t afford to get your car after 30 days, the city auctions it off and then comes after you with a civil judgment for the impoundment bill, if the sale of the car didn’t cover the fees.

Fines and court fees: Up to $4,160, or more. In addition, if you have been charged with a DUI for the first time, you may:

  • Go to jail for up to 6 months;
  • Lose your driver’s license for 6 months and be ordered to complete a 3-month or 9-month program

SR-22 Certificate Required

Once your California driver’s license has been suspended or revoked, your insurance company files an SR-22 Certificate of Insurance with the California Department of Motor Vehicles in order to confirm that you meet the state’s minimum requirements for liability coverage. Not all car insurance carriers provide SR-22 coverage.

Also, you will lose any good driver discount you may have had — California law prohibits DUI offenders from obtaining / retaining a good driver discount for ten years following the date of a DUI violation.

In addition to the endless parade of court paperwork you’ll have to handle, it’s up to you to deal with the DMV too. You must contact the DMV within 10 days of your arrest to demand a hearing. Otherwise you forfeit your right to a hearing and your license automatically goes into suspension after 30 days.

The bottom line — driving is a privilege – don’t abuse it.


Please note: Every case is unique.  The associated costs, fees and penalties outlined here are presented only as a range of possible expenses you may incur as a result of a DUI conviction.  The costs, fees and penalties herein may not be applicable to your specific case. We encourage you to seek legal guidance for questions or concerns you may have.

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