The True Financial Costs of a DWI

Sometimes a night of drinking costs much more than the price of the tab. When you decide to drink and drive, you’re taking a big risk that comes with a steep financial price. From hefty fines to attorney’s fees, a DUI conviction costs start running at $10,000. That amount is even higher in situations involving vehicular damage or bodily harm.

DWI and DUI cases are complex, varying by state. However, the following list represents an overview of the top costs associated with driving under the influence in the U.S. :

Drink driving causes DUI charges

DUI Cost #1 – Your Bond

Unless you were released on your own recognizance, you must pay your bail before leaving jail. Many states use a bail schedule that determines bail based upon the person’s current charge, taking into account previous DWIs and other convictions. For example, a first-time offender with no criminal record will receive a lower bail than that of an individual arrested for their 3rd DWI.

When using a bail bondsman, the court requires the accused to pay a portion of the total bail, usually a 10% bond. So if the court sets bail at $10,000, then only $1,000 is required to bond out for release. This amount is more like a security deposit, ensuring the court you will return for trial.

DUI Cost #2 – Your Attorney

Again, this cost is heavily dependent on your specific case. If this is your first DWI and you have no other convictions on your record, you may qualify for a diversion program in lieu of harsher penalties. In that scenario, you avoid going to trial and your attorney’s fees are lower.

However, DWI cases have become more sophisticated, with both prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys arguing over the scientific methodologies used to define being “under the influence.” When your DWI case goes to trial, you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,500-$5,000 for a first-time DWI.

You may think that by forgoing an attorney, you may save on this expense. In many cases, this isn’t true. An expert DWI attorney could actually save you money by successfully defending your case and lowering your penalties.

DUI Cost #3 – Court Fees and Penalties

If you are convicted of a DUI, expect to get your checkbook out. Let’s use DWI laws in the state of Texas as an example. First offenders can expect up to $2,000 in fines, second offenders can expect up to $4,000 in fines, and third-time DWI offenders can expect to pay up to $10,000 in fines (plus, the felony charge and all that is associated with being a convicted felon).

The court may also request that you install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. This device works like a breathalyzer to measure driver BAC and is attached to a car’s ignition. If any alcohol is detected in the driver’s sample, the car will not start. These devices can cost up to $150 plus maintenance fees.

DUI and DWI education program

DUI Cost #4 – DWI/DUI Education Programs

If you were able to escape jail time with a diversion program, you have not escaped forking over more money. These programs can cost upwards of $2,000 to attend. Curriculum includes discussions about alcohol abuse and dependence, as well as the effects of other drug use. Typically, the course must be taken soon after the offense and ranges from 12-18 hours of coursework.

DUI Cost #5 – Car Insurance

Your auto insurance provider will most certainly take your DWI into account when they review your annual rate. The increase is variable by state, but an increase is almost certain. If you live in North Carolina, for example, you could see a 300% increase in your premium. On average, expected hikes are about $800 yearly.

As you can see, a DWI or DUI conviction is a costly matter. In addition to the above list, there are also other things to take into account, like lost wages for time in jail. And if an accident occurred due to driving under the influence, those costs could really skyrocket. The best advice is to not drink and drive. Know your limits and call a cab, a rideshare, or a friend if you’ve over-imbibed. Your personal and professional life, and your wallet, will certainly thank you.