Thursday, September 11, 2008

How expensive a California drunk driving situation could get

California DUI Attorneys at www.SanDiegoDrunkDrivingAttorney.net/penalties know how expensive a California drunk driving situation could be.

A California DUI - driving-under-the-influence conviction is a financial wrecking ball. A typical DUI costs about $10,000 by the time you pay bail, fines, fees and insurance, even if you didn't hit anything or hurt anybody.

The California DUI penalties are intended to be discouraging. Alcohol played a role in nearly 40% of U.S. automobile fatalities in 2005. That's 16,885 deaths, a figure nearly unchanged over the past decade, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

But states are cracking down. The last of the 50 states have lowered their thresholds for DUI to 0.08% blood-alcohol content. Police arrested 1.37 million people last year for driving under alcohol's grip, about one in every 140 licensed drivers, the FBI says.

But forget the humiliation and hassle for now. Forget the toll on lives. Just look at what a California DUI does to your wallet:

Bail. You'll have to shell out bail to get released after your arrest. Cost: $150-$2,500 or more.

(Costs shown in this article are for first-time California DUI offenders. Costs and penalties can be more severe if you're a repeat offender or your blood-alcohol content is above 0.15%.)
Towing. When you're arrested, your car gets towed. In some places, retrieving it costs only $100 or so. But Chicago, sensing a moneymaking opportunity, ensures it really hurts: The city charges about $1,200 for the first 24 hours and $50 for each additional day of storage, say Chicago DUI defense attorneys. If you can't afford to get your car after 30 days, the city auctions it and then comes after you with a civil judgment for the impoundment bill, if the car's sale didn't cover the fees. Some cities around Chicago are doing the same, Wallin says. Cost: $100-$1,200.

Insurance. One of the biggest hits a California DUI - drunken driver takes is in his insurance premiums.

"If you get a DUI conviction, it will likely affect your insurance rates for (at least) the next three to five years," says Carole Walker, the executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.

How much? "They could double, triple, even quadruple," Walker says. Some companies such as State Farm Insurance will move you to a portion of the company that handles higher-risk policies.

But "many insurance companies will drop you even upon arrest, regardless of conviction," say other DUI attorneys. And if your policy isn't renewed, you'll have to try to find insurance someplace else or see whether your state has an assigned-risk pool for insurance. Either way, you'll pay for it. For example: Illinois estimates that the high-risk insurance costs an additional $1,500 a year for three years, on average.

The roadside embarrassment is just the start. Watch out for the hidden cost of a traffic ticket. Don't pay the price if you don't have to. Click here to play the video.


Why three years? Most insurance companies look at records for at least three years and sometimes for five years, Walker says. To begin rebuilding your reputation in an insurer's eyes, you have to keep your nose completely clean -- no speeding tickets or other traffic citations.

But the financial impact of that California DUI doesn't end after three years: You'll likely have to go as many as five more years, incident-free, to get back to the "preferred" status with the lowest premiums that you perhaps once enjoyed. In short, "it can be up to eight years afterward" that the California DUI can affect you, Walker says. Ouch. Cost: $4,500 or more.

Legal fees. Attorneys might charge a low amount to enter a quick plea. But with so much at stake, many people accused of California DUI fight the charge. That's when things start to add up.

Attorneys who specialize in DUI defense says legal representation can cost anywhere from $2,500 and up, depending on the rigor and complexity of the defense. But that's not the only fee. A vigorous defense is complex. There may be a need for expert witnesses who can testify about the accuracy, or lack thereof, which could easily cost over $1,000. Usually, attorneys say, fees are $7,500 or more with some lawyers.

Fines. Fines and court fees for breaking the law range from state to state, from a minimum of $300 in Colorado and $685 in Washington to as much as $3,000 in California. "The fines have gone up dramatically over the last few years in Illinois," says Wallin. "A few years ago in Chicago, the typical DUI fine was about $300 on the first offense. And now it's $900 to $1,200." Cost: $300-$3,000.

Alcohol evaluation. An evaluation is usually required of anyone who is sentenced by the court for drunken driving. Cost: $181 in Colorado, for example.

Alcohol education and treatment. If you're convicted, you usually have to undergo an education or treatment program, especially if you want to get your license again. Treatment can vary hugely in scope and extent. Cost: $400-$2,000 for basic treatment.

License reinstatement fees. Once a driver has shown, by completing courses and treatment, that he deserves his license back, the state charges him for the reissue. Cost: $60-$250.

Additional fees. Colorado, for example, will slap you with myriad other fees:

$10 jail filing fee.

$78 Victim Assistance Fund payment.

$25 Victim Compensation Fund payment.

$90 for the Law Enforcement Assistance Fund.

$15 Brain Injury surcharge.

$25 Victim Impact Panel assessment.

If you had been particularly drunk, a judge might order that an ignition lock be placed on your car to test your breath and prevent your car from starting if you're intoxicated. In Tennessee, for example, this costs $65-$70 a month. Cost: $308 and up.

The unexpected and sometimes unquantifiable costs
Finally, there are several other costs that you need to remember:

Life-insurance-premium increases. With a DUI arrest or conviction, you could see an increase in your life-insurance bills because insurers may ask if your license has ever been suspended.

Lost time = lost money. People who've gotten DUIs report missing a lot of work (and therefore losing a lot of income) dealing with their mistake, as a result of court dates, community service and sometimes a jail sentence. That doesn't even count the lost free time.

Lose the license? Lose the job. For many people who need to drive to and from their jobs -- much less those who drive for their jobs -- losing a license can be devastating. And here's a shocker: In several states, including Washington, your license may be suspended for 90 days simply upon your arrest for DUI, regardless of whether you end up being convicted. If you're convicted, your license can be revoked for a year, or longer in other states, until you complete all the court's requirements and pay all fines.

No drunks in the cockpit or the ER. If you're a doctor, stockbroker, airline pilot, lawyer or nurse, a DUI conviction could affect the status of your professional license, California DUI defense lawyers say.

It's not good for the résumé. A DUI lingers on your criminal record for employers to see if they do a background check, harming your future job prospects. In Washington state, a DUI conviction also stays on your driving record for 14 years, and an employer can ask for and receive that information.

Adding it up
So in the end, how much does a DUI cost?

The STOP-DWI Office in Erie County, N.Y., estimates that a drunken-driving conviction there costs $9,500 -- if no one is injured and there's no accident. Colorado estimates about the same thing.

Illinois' secretary of state pegs the amount closer to $10,600 but says the figure would be nearly $15,000, on average, if people counted the lost income from all the hassles.

Any way you slice it, it's a pricey mistake.

But the biggest thing that's lost isn't money, California DUI defense lawyers say. The biggest thing here is the stigma that you get. Everybody looks at you and says, He's the drunk driver. And the stigma doesn't have a financial cost. But the stigma does have both a social cost and an employment cost.

The deadliest states for DUI Location % Fatalities DUI-related Location % Fatalities DUI-related
Washington, D.C.
54.17%
Maryland
38.27%

Hawaii
50.71%
Wyoming
38.24%

Rhode Island
49.43%
Ohio
38.17%

Montana
49.40%
Alabama
37.40%

Delaware
49.25%
Michigan
37.29%

Alaska
48.61%
Nevada
37.24%

North Dakota
47.15%
New York
36.67%

Washington
45.44%
Virginia
36.64%

Wisconsin
45.28%
Tennessee
36.54%

Texas
44.78%
Oregon
36.27%

Connecticut
43.80%
New Hampshire
36.14%

South Dakota
43.01%
Minnesota
35.96%

Illinois
42.62%
Arkansas
35.96%

South Carolina
42.45%
North Carolina
35.79%

Arizona
41.80%
Oklahoma
35.29%

Florida
41.52%
Kansas
35.28%

Louisiana
41.26%
New Jersey
35.16%

Missouri
40.97%
Maine
34.91%

Colorado
40.26%
Indiana
34.12%

Mississippi
39.85%
West Virginia
33.69%

Vermont
39.73%
Nebraska
32.97%

California
39.71%
Idaho
32.36%

Pennsylvania
39.36%
Kentucky
31.78%

U.S. average
38.87%
Georgia
31.52%

New Mexico
38.73%
Iowa
26.22%

Massachusetts
38.69%
Utah
13.12%