Often the new year brings with it the need to re-assess finances, including money that might be stashed away for an unexpected “rainy day,” and I thought it might be worth discussing the unexpected expense of a California DUI arrest.
For some, the prospect of jail isn’t as scary as the costs that might be associated with a California DUI. Personal preference aside, the costs are by no means trivial. For many, the monetary costs of a DUI are just as much of a deterrent as the threat of jail itself. So, let’s break it down, but before I do, let me begin by saying the following is general information about basic first-time California DUI cases without injuries or other aggravating circumstances. It goes without saying that California DUI cases are unique with unique circumstances and, as such, the costs associated with different aspects of a DUI case will vary.
First of all, if you can afford an attorney, hire one. Doing so will help your chances at the best possible outcome for the case. However, admittedly, attorneys are not cheap. If you cannot afford one, request the public defender at the first court appearance. Almost all private DUI attorneys charge on a flat fee basis. Usually the flat fee is for pre-trial, and only once a plea deal cannot be reached does a case go to trial. Then the attorney can charge a separate fee for trial should a case make it to trial. Some attorneys do not bifurcate these fees.
Pre-trial is the phase of the court proceedings where the attorney obtains the evidence, makes motions (if applicable), and negotiates a plea deal with the prosecutor. For this stage, attorneys can range between $1,000 and $7,500 depending on the complexity of the case, the experience of the attorney, and the size of their office. There’s no right or wrong number. Pay what you can afford and, generally, with quality comes price. Having said that, do your homework. Make sure that you actually consult with the attorney first and that you’re comfortable with them. Make sure that they specialize in DUI defense. Often, the lower-cost attorneys are the ones who don’t have much experience defending DUI cases.
During pre-trial, it may be recommended that a blood re-test be conducted. You, not the attorney, bears the responsibility of paying for this expense and it’ll run several hundred dollars, depending on what the blood is being tested for. You attorney may also recommend hiring an expert to consult regarding the blood re-test results. This too can cost several hundred dollars.
Most cases settle with a plea deal of some fashion, which means that very few cases actually make it to trial (which is why most DUI attorneys charge separately for pre-trial and trial). For those who wish to push their case to a trial, they can expect anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 to conduct the trial. Since most DUI’s don’t ever make it to trial, I won’t say anything more about trial costs.
Let’s stop here and reflect on what the cost will be to either prevent a DUI conviction or do damage control and take a plea deal. I do this because the costs following a DUI conviction are just as intimidating as the costs to try and prevent the conviction.
The fine for a DUI is a minimum of $390 up to a maximum of $1,000. Having practiced DUI defense now for close to 10 years, I can say that the fine for most DUI’s ends up being $390 to $500. This number, however, does not include the “penalties and assessments” that get added to the base fine mentioned above. Think of these as “court taxes.” The amount varies from courthouse to courthouse and many judges don’t even know how the court calculates the penalties and assessments. However, as a rule of thumb, I tell people to expect about $2,000 give or take a couple hundred of dollars.
The sentence for a first-time DUI will almost inevitably result in the driver having to take a DUI class, if not for the court, quite possibly to get their license back from the DMV. For a first-time DUI, a person is looking at either a three, six, or nine-month DUI course, depending on the severity of the case. Although the costs vary depending on the length of the course and the program that you take the course from, people should expect to pay between $600 and $1,800 for the DUI course.
Sometimes, a driver convicted of a California DUI will have to pay the arresting agency a booking fee. This ranges between $200 and $400.
When the driver is eligible to have their license reinstated, the reinstatement fee to the DMV is $125. (You can read previous posts about the license suspension following a DUI)
Lastly, a person must consider the ancillary costs of the increase in car insurance. Most people forget to include this figure in their estimations of total DUI costs because it’s not directly related to the courts. The estimate cost of car insurance over 10 years is approximately $10,000.
DUIs can be avoided. Going into 2020, do not let a California DUI be the thing that uses up your rainy day fund this year.