An average of around 10,000 people die in DUI-related traffic accidents in the United States every year, and drunk driving accounts for nearly 30 percent of all traffic fatalities.
How expensive is a DUI? Depending on the outcome, the answer is “very.” Driving under the influence can cost you your life. It can also cause innocent people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time to lose theirs, in which case you may potentially spend decades behind bars.
These worst-case scenarios highlight why driving under the influence is never a good idea. The possible cost associated with a DUI should be the last thing on anyone’s mind. The rule is simple. Don’t drive under the influence, ever.
Having said that, a DUI can also come with significant financial consequences.
What Is a DUI?
“DUI” stands for “driving under the influence.” DUIs are most commonly associated with drunk driving, but “under the influence” can also refer to street drugs or prescription medications that render you an unsafe driver.
Each state has its own DUI laws. Generally speaking, drivers are considered to be driving under the influence if their blood alcohol level is above the state’s maximum allowed amount or if they test positive for drugs or prescription medications.
You can be charged with a DUI after causing a traffic accident, but also after being pulled over by a law enforcement officer and being found under the influence. A DUI is a serious charge even if you did not cause injury, death, or property damage.
In some cases, you can be charged with a DUI even when you’re sleeping in your car under the influence — despite having no intent to operate the vehicle. People who have opted for RV living should be especially careful about this!
How Much Will a DUI Charge Cost You?
The costs associated with a DUI charge vary from state to state. They also depend on the outcome. However, it’s not unusual to have to spend more than $20,000.
The costs you can incur if you are charged with a DUI include:
- Bail fees. If you are arrested on a DUI charge, you will have to make bail to get out of jail. Fees vary, and bail bond services may be able to make them more manageable, but they generally range from $100 to $5,000. Drivers who already have a DUI on their record will have to pay more.
- Legal fees. A public defender may be some drivers’ only option, but paying for a lawyer of your choice can result in a more favorable outcome. Legal fees will depend on the complexity of your case and on your state, but they can easily amount to thousands of dollars.
- DUI fines. A DUI fine generally costs over $300 dollars, but not much more, for a first-time offender who did not cause any property damage or bodily injury.
- Probation. DUI offenders who are put on probation can expect to pay several hundred dollars in the process.
- DMV fees. The DMV fee may amount to $200 or more.
- Towing costs. The costs of having your vehicle towed after you are found to be under the influence are generally the least of your worries; these fees can be under $50.
- Traffic school costs. Drivers charged with a DUI may be ordered to attend defensive driving safety classes and alcohol education. This can cost upward of $300.
- Increased insurance rates. You don’t even want to know. Your insurance premium will definitely soar after a DUI, though!
- Interlock ignition device. Some people charged with a DUI are required to install an interlock ignition device that prevents the vehicle from starting without a breath test. This can cost nearly $1,000.
The average cost of a DUI is between $4,000 and $5,000 — but that doesn’t include (potential) lost wages, the need to rely on public transit, and other hidden fees. The costs may also be much higher, especially when a driver causes death, injury, or property damage.
The True Cost of a DUI: A Final Word
Driving under the influence can create a financial headache, but that’s the least of your worries. Nobody imagines that they’ll end up a murderer if they get behind the wheel after a few drinks, but it happens more often than we want to acknowledge.
The best approach to avoiding the costs associated with a DUI is to avoid driving under the influence. DUI laws exist for a reason, and not drinking at all is always the safest bet.