Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is dangerous to you and everyone else on the road. Even if you don’t crash your car, getting arrested for a DUI could cost you thousands of dollars in legal fees and other costs. You’ll pay more for car insurance after a DUI for years, too.
“A $20 drink tab can turn into $10,000 down the drain,” says defense attorney Kevin Smith, a partner at Pattis & Smith in New Haven, Connecticut.
A DUI produces both explicit and hidden costs, Smith says. The total will vary depending on the defendant, jurisdiction and requirements imposed by the court or state law.
The cost of a DUI
Here are some of the costs you could face after a drunk driving arrest:
Bond: You could be released on your own recognizance, or you might have to post bond. In Connecticut where Smith practices, he says, the bond typically ranges from $500 to $2,000. The defendant must pay at least 10% of the bond amount to be released.
Attorney: The cost of a DUI attorney varies depending on the seriousness of the case and the jurisdiction, but generally starts at about $1,000 for the simplest cases. Your attorney’s bill will be on the low end if you qualify for a diversion program, which sets aside charges for first offenders who complete certain requirements, such as alcohol education or community service hours.
If the case goes to trial, you’ll pay a lot more. Defense attorney Larry Forman of Louisville, Kentucky, says he would typically charge $5,000 to $7,500 for a DUI trial. In some states, such as New Jersey and Florida, similar services would range from $8,000 to $10,000, he estimates.
Court fees and fines: The attorney’s bill doesn’t include fees and fines levied by the court. Smith says those could range from $200 to $2,000.
Ignition interlock: In some states you may have to get an ignition interlock installed to regain driving privileges. The device is wired to the vehicle’s ignition system, and the driver must blow into the device before starting the car. If alcohol is detected on the driver’s breath, the car won’t start. Smith says that in Connecticut, a driver would pay a $200 installation fee plus about $60 every three months for maintenance.
Diversion program: This isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free program; you have to pay to participate. The cost is usually a few hundred dollars. For example, the program fee in Jefferson County, Kentucky, where Forman practices, is $300.
License reinstatement fees: Your license will be suspended after a DUI arrest, and you’ll have to pay to get it reinstated. Fees vary widely by state, but they can be significant. In Minnesota, for example, the reinstatement fee after an alcohol-related suspension is $680.
Lost wages: In many cases a DUI conviction means jail time. Even without jail time, drivers arrested for DUI face license suspension and time in court, both of which can lead to lost wages.
DUI car insurance rates
Your car insurance rates could double after a DUI, and your rates are likely to remain high for at least a few years. NerdWallet compared quotes for 25- and 50-year-old drivers with a DUI and with clean records among three big insurers in California, Florida and New York.
A DUI led to the biggest price jumps in California, where the average premium from the three companies more than doubled.