Thinking of getting into the driver’s seat after a few drinks? A DUI conviction could cost you. How much? You’d be surprised. Court costs alone can add up to nearly $5,000. And that’s not including fines, vehicle-related costs and charges, attorney’s fees, and the cost of any substance treatment a judge may order. Society has an interest in preventing impaired driving. And one of the ways it does that is by making it very, very expensive.
Court Costs and Legal Fees
It costs a lot to send a case through the court system. And courts pass many of these expenses on to the offender. Court costs are only the beginning. These and other case-related expenses vary from state to state. Here are some common court costs and related charges.
Court Costs: $1550 to $4640
Court costs are the administrative costs of handling a case. These may include filing fees, copying costs, and postage. They may also include fees for jail time, license reinstatement, and more. They do not include attorney’s fees. Here are some common court costs that you may encounter, and their average costs. These fees may be a lot higher for repeat offenders and drivers arrested with a very high blood alcohol content.
- Bail: between $150 and $2,500.
- Licensing fees: around $150
- Jail fee: between $10 and $150
- Jail time — yes, some places will charge you for your stay in jail! — an average of $330
- Sentencing fee: $250
- Probation fee: This is often paid to a private probation company. Probation fees are paid monthly, and cost an average of $30 per month, for a total of between $600 and $1200.
- Community Service Supervision Fee: around $60.
Legal Fees: Up to $5,000 — or Even More.
Unless you choose to represent yourself — and most of us are not qualified to do that — you will have to have a lawyer. A private attorney can cost hundreds of dollars per hour. For a private attorney, you can expect to pay anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 for your case. But did you know that you may have to pay for a public defender? Forty-three states charge defendants to use a court-appointed public defender. The cost of a public defender varies by state. The minimum amount is $10, and the maximum is $480.
Fines: $150 to $50,000
Criminal penalties for a DUI are bad enough. First, all 50 states will suspend your driver’s license for a first offense. Some may also confiscate your vehicle. In addition, a judge may order you to complete substance abuse treatment. And then there are ignition interlocks (which you will have to pay for as well). If that’s not enough, though, many states also impose fines for a first DUI offense. And for repeat offenders, those fines go way up.
How much can you expect to pay in fines? That depends on the state where you committed the offense. In Kansas, fines for a first offense start at $150 and go up from there. If you’re unlucky enough to get your DUI conviction in Oregon, though, you might end up paying as much as $6,250. In most other states, the most common amount is around $1,000. And that’s just the beginning.
Repeat DUI offenders in Tennessee can expect to pay up to $15,000 in fines. And that’s on top of license revocation and mandatory jail time. Fines in Alaska can reach five digits for repeat offenders as well. As they can in Delaware. Repeat DUI offenders in Massachusetts may be ordered to pay a staggering $50,000 in fines.
Can I ePay Fines Online? How about Court Costs?
Yes! You can pay court online. Your court will give you a list of payment options, including ePay options. In addition, there are a number of national companies that specialize in secure online payments for court costs and fines. One example is Govpay.net.
Car Related Costs: $800 to $2,800
These are costs related directly to your vehicle. If the state has to tow your car, they will likely charge you for it. The average towing cost is around $100, but it can go up to $800 or even more, depending on the laws of your area, and the towing company. If they have to store your car, you will pay impound fees (usually between $10 and $100 per day) There may even be a fee to get it back ($90 to $250). On top of that, if a judge orders you to install an ignition interlock system, guess who pays? That’s right. You can expect to pay $100 to $150 for installation, then an additional monthly fee — $60 to $80 per month — for monitoring and calibration. The total cost of interlock use comes out to an estimated $500 to $1,500.
And none of this takes into account any repairs you might have to pay for, either on your vehicle, or someone else’s.
So your car alone is going to cost you. Big time.
Treatment/Rehab Costs: $280 to $27,000 or More
Finally, many DUI convictions come with an order for substance abuse treatment. This may take the form of “DUI School,” which is similar to traffic school for people ticketed for moving violations. You might also have to attend counseling or recovery groups. Repeat offenses and felony DUI convictions may result in an order for longer-term treatment, or even inpatient rehab. Expensive? Sure. But most people would agree that it’s better than jail time. Here’s how those costs might break down.
- Assessment: To decide what level of counseling an offender needs, the court will order an assessment by a substance abuse counselor. The average cost for this is $280. And yes, you will have to pay for it.
- “DUI School”: Like traffic school, there are a lot of options, including online classes. Costs can vary a lot, depending on location and format. But expect to pay a minimum of around $350 for DUI school.
- Outpatient Rehab: Around $5,000 for a three-month program.
- Inpatient Rehab: You can expect to pay between $14,000 and $27,000 for a 30-day inpatient rehab stay. Keep in mind, though, that a judge may order a 60 day or even a 90-day program.
A DUI is expensive. Really expensive. And that’s not taking into account lost wages, hospital bills, bills for property or personal damage, and increased insurance premiums. If you’re thinking of getting behind the wheel impaired, think again. A cab ride costs a little bit of money. A DUI will cost you a lot, for a very long time.
Featured Image is CC BY-SA 2.0, by Tracy O., via Flickr.