It goes without saying that driving under the influence of alcohol can result in an avalanche of legal issues. It’s all too easy not to understand the true gravity of a DUI or a DWI until you are dealing with the consequences directly. There are two major reasons for this fact. First of all, many people don’t realise where their limits are, alcohol-wise. One drink too many can push you into the vicinity of a 0.08 BAC, where you are legally drunk and no longer allowed to drive. It’s even more difficult to gauge your level of drunkenness, given the fact that factors other than drink count—alcohol by volume (ABV) in each drink, the time period over which the drinks were consumed, whether or not you’ve had a meal—can impact your BAC.
The second reason that many people don’t take DUI or DWI convictions as seriously as they should is that, in most jurisdictions, both offenses are misdemeanours instead of felonies. For a first offense, in other words, you aren’t likely to do jail time for either a DUI or a DWI. As a result, it’s perhaps easier for a drunk person to get behind the wheel of a car without appreciating the risk that they are taking.
Understanding the Cost of a Drunk Driving Offense
How much does a first DUI or DWI conviction cost? As you might expect, there is no exact figure. How much you will spend to get past a drunk driving incident will depend on the state where you picked up the conviction, as well as numerous other factors. However, there are ballpark figures, and they’re enough to scare most drivers away from ever getting behind the wheel intoxicated.
According to Bankrate.com, for instance, the cost “can add up to $20,000 before everything is over.” Of course, the “before everything is over” qualifier is an important part of that statement, signifying that, no, you won’t have to spend 20 grand up front on a DUI or DWI conviction. Instead, you’ll pay somewhere in the vicinity of $20,000 over the course of five to 10 years, as you slowly clean up your life in the wake of a conviction. Still, even over time, that much money can bring about steep financial hardship for most people.
Why do drunk driving offenses cost so much, and why are the expenses so spread out over such a long period of time? Ultimately, the reason that DUIs or DWIs are so costly is that there are so many different expenses associated with these types of convictions.
Your Drunk Driving Tab
Let’s start with the arrest: when you are pulled over for a DUI or a DWI and found by police officers to be legally drunk, you will be arrested and your car will be towed and impounded. Call this your first expense.
Next, someone will have to bail you out of jail and you will have to hire a lawyer. You will pay attorney fees, court costs, and fines or fees in the days leading up to and immediately after your formal conviction. These expenses are considerable, but they are still only the beginning of the process. Over the years, you will also likely have to pay for court-mandated alcohol education courses, regular blood testing, and other monitoring costs. For instance, the court might order you to pay for a Breathalyzer that hooks into your car’s ignition and makes it impossible for you to start your car if you are intoxicated.
Now that we’ve covered the payments that are necessary to satisfy the terms of a DUI or DWI conviction, let’s turn our attention to the other expenses that will build up on your tab over the years. Your car insurance premiums will skyrocket, doubling, tripling, or perhaps even quadrupling, according to CreditCards.com. If the court suspends your driver’s license, you will have to pay for alternate transportation. If your job involves driving, you might even get fired as a result of your conviction.
Needless to say, the expenses associated with DUI or DWI convictions—even for first offenders—are not forgiving. If you need to drive home, it’s always smarter to skip that extra drink or call an Uber than it is to try to beat the law. With all that said, if you do get arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, call a DUI lawyer right away. Of course, hiring an attorney will cost you money, but if there is any way for you to avoid a conviction or minimize expenses, a lawyer is your best bet for finding them and using them in your favor.