What Does a DUI Cost?

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on March 19th, 2013

I've often been asked, "If I get arrested for drunk driving, what will it end up costing me?"  The question assumes a conviction, of course, and an acquittal or plea to a lesser offense are common.  But assuming a conviction….

The costs will depend upon many variables:  the facts of the case, the jurisdiction in which the offense is being prosecuted, costs of bail, local court policies, the policies of the prosecuting agency — and even what the sentencing judge had for breakfast.  And it depends upon what costs you are talking about:  your lawyer, fines, costs of DUI schools, possible ignition interlock devices, loss of work due to incarceration and/or driver's license suspension, increased car insurance premiums, professional licensing consequences or other damage to your career, possible child custody issues, secrecy clearance problems, etc.

The following recent article in The Los Angeles Times, however, gives a fairly good if simplistic assessment of the immediate costs:

First Drunk-Driving Conviction Can Cost Nearly $16,000 in California

March 14.  Los Angeles, CA — Beware of the $16,000 cocktail.  

Just in time for St. Patrick's Day partying, the Automobile Club of Southern California has calculated that a first-offense misdemeanor DUI conviction can now cost up to $15,649 in California.

That’s up 29% from 2011.

The penalties are even higher for teenagers. The expense of an under-age-21 first-offense misdemeanor DUI is up to $22,492…

The Auto Club developed its cost estimate by totaling up mandated state and local fines, penalties, restitution, legal fees and increased insurance costs. The calculations do not include thousands of dollars of other potential expenses drivers might face if they lose work time for a criminal trial or to go to jail, need to pay bail or incur injury or vehicle damage from a crash they caused.

It also doesn’t include other potential drunk-driving-conviction consequences such as the risk of a civil trial or the requirement to install an ignition interlock in a vehicle.

Cheaper to take a cab.  Failing that, get a reputable attorney who specializes in DUI defense: his higher fees will save you a lot in the long run.

  • Many times this year you will hear groups talk about the cost of a DUI. These groups tend to use the most extreme examples and end up citing costs of $15,000 to $20,000. In fact, the average DUI case, with an attorney, will cost you well under $10,000. For an average, typical DUI, an attorney will normally charge between $1,500 to $5,000. This range will be affected by the experience of the lawyer, the reputation, etc. The court fine, upon a conviction, will run about $1,900. The first offender program is about $400 and your insurance premiums will go up. Of course these prices reflect an average DUI, meaning no accident, low blood alcohol level, first offense and no jury trial. Once these other factors are added, then the price naturally goes up. I do agree with the premise at the end of the article: it is still cheaper to take a cab.

  • Tim

    Yes, it is cheaper to take a cab generally speeking. However, what most people don't realize is that many areas of our nation, do not have cab services or very minimal. There could be 2 hour waiting time or longer, and some cabs never show up at all…

  • DUI Attorney Miami

    It's amazing what DUI costs can run. $3,000 and up for an attorney and the cost to your personal life as well as other costs like insurance.

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