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Driving under the influence can take a toll not only on your reputation, health and mental stability, but also on your bank account, as the fine for the first DUI can reach up to $20,000. In fact, in the United States, the cost for traffic incidents caused by alcohol consumption has reached a bit over $114 billion, out of which $62 billion in life losses. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has declared that, roughly, 28 people die every day due to drunk driving traffic incidents.
Drinking and driving can have a huge impact on all aspects of your life and the stigma that sticks to someone who has caused one can sometimes never go away. But leaving the psychological factor aside, many people who get behind the wheel after a couple of drinks don’t know the material cost behind their bad decision.
First expense – Bail
In order for a police officer to pull you over, they need to have probable cause. This can go anywhere from chaotically switching lanes to speeding and violating other traffic laws which can suggest impairment. Next, the officer will look for any visible signs of intoxication, such as alcohol smell, red eyes or abnormal behavior. This will lead to the officer asking you to perform a number of sobriety tests, culminating with an alcohol screening to determine your BAC (blood alcohol concentration).
If you have been found legally drunk, which means the blood alcohol concentration is over 0.08%, you will immediately be arrested. Keep in mind that, even if you have been found with a BAC under 0,08%, but you fall under your state’s zero tolerance laws, such as being under 21 or driving with kids in the car, you can also be arrested. After the arrest, you will most likely what someone to bail you out of jail, which will be the first of a long list of expenses. The average bail for DUI can get around $500, but can get even higher than that, depending on the circumstances and criminal history.
Additionally, if you are not accompanied by a sober person who can drive the car home, it will be towed and stored, and you will have to pay a fee in order to get it back. This can go as low as $100, but can even reach $1,200 in some particular cases.
The next day after your arrest, you will have to participate in a hearing, where the judge will present to you the charges you are facing and offer you the possibility to hire a lawyer. You also have the option to represent yourself or get a public defender, but hiring a lawyer is often the preferred choice.
Here is where the costs can vary substantially, depending on the lawyer and the number of previous offenses. In the case of a first DUI, attorney fees can range anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000, but in there were previous offenses, you can even end up paying twice as much.
In order to determine if there is enough evidence for a charge, you will have to take part in a preliminary hearing, which is typically held 2 to 3 weeks after the arrest. If the state provides enough evidence, you will be facing a trial. The trial itself can get extremely draining, both mentally and financially, as you might be finding yourself unable to attend work or you may fail to regain your focus.
In the course of the trial, the judge will ask the police officers who made the arrest to testify and, if there is possible, even witnesses. After the jury gives the verdict, you will be hearing the sentence. If you are found guilty, the conviction can include anything from fines, community service and probation to rehab and incarceration.
A multitude of fines
Unfortunately, the costs don’t end after the trial, as you will have to pay a multitude of fees. Even for first-time offenders, the fees can get extremely high, even if there has been no material or physical damage done. Court fees do vary depending on the state, but the average cost can get anywhere between $250 and $1,500.
When asked, a San Diego DUI lawyer has stated that the minimum fine for a first time DUI in California does not get under $390, but the total cost for a first-time offender does not get under $6,300. This number should be enough to discourage drivers to get behind the wheel intoxicated, but it often does not. In fact, there is evidence that DUI convicts have even driven under the influence an average of 400 times before getting pulled over.
Additionally, you will have to pay a large number of fines throughout the next period of time. Penalty assessment can go up to $700, state restitution fund will cost you another $100 and jail and testing fees will add another $50. On top of that, you might have to pay for some sort of educational class regarding substance abuse, which can cost you another $50 to $100.
While the majority of costs come from fines and other court costs, there are also other expenses which may be less obvious. In all USA, DUI offenders lose their driving license for a period of time, which means they need to use public transport or other methods of transportation. In order to get their license back, they need to pay a reinstatement fee which can get around $100 and also attend driving alcohol school which adds another $400 to the overall amount. Insurance rate can go up to $6,000, but it varies by company and state.
In the case of underage drivers, the expenses can get significantly higher. The auto insurance for a teen driver that has been charged with a DUI can get up to $40,000 on the course of 13 years, with an additional charge of $6,000 for fees and driver’s education classes. On top of that, teenagers can face disciplinary consequences, such as being expelled or rejected from college applications.