Updated: 3/22/2011 12:32 PM ET|
DUI: The $10,000 ride home
Everybody knows driving drunk is wrong and stupid, but it's also increasingly expensive. Calculating the costs could be enough to sober some people up.
If you need any more reasons not to drink and drive, consider this: A 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 penalties are intended to discourage the behavior. Alcohol played a role in nearly 32% of U.S. automobile fatalities in 2009, the latest year for which figures are available. That's 10,839 deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. An average of one alcohol-impaired-driving fatality occurred every 48 minutes in 2009.
So states are cracking down. The last of the 50 states have lowered their thresholds for DUI to 0.08% blood-alcohol content. Police arrested more than 1.4 million people in 2009 for driving under alcohol's grip, the FBI says.
But forget for a moment the humiliation and hassle. Forget the toll on lives. Just look at what a DUI does to your wallet:
Bail. You'll have to shell out bail to get released after your arrest. Cost: $150-$2,500 (using a bonding company is what raises the cost).
(Costs shown in this article are for first-time DUI offenders. Costs and penalties are often 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, says Chicago DUI defense attorney Harold Wallin. If you can't afford to get your car after 30 days, the city auctions it off and then comes after you with a civil judgment for the impoundment bill, if the sale of the car 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 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 "some insurance companies will drop you even upon arrest, regardless of conviction," says Steven Oberman, a Knoxville, Tenn., DUI attorney who is the co-author of a national treatise on drunken-driving defense. 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. 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.
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 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 DUI can affect you, Walker says. Ouch. Cost: $4,500 or more.
Legal fees. Attorneys might charge as little as $250 to enter a quick guilty plea. But with so much at stake, many people accused of DUI fight the charge. That's when things start to add up.
Attorney Oberman says legal representation to contest the criminal charge can cost anywhere from $2,500 to $25,000, depending on the rigor and complexity of the defense. But that's not the only expense. Oberman says a vigorous defense sometimes requires hiring an investigator ($1,000 to $3,000) to interview witnesses, transcribe the police video and try to uncover evidence to discredit the arresting officer's testimony. There may be a need for expert witnesses who can testify about the accuracy, or lack thereof, of field sobriety tests ($3,000 and up). Usually, attorney Wallin says, fees are $2,000 to $3,000 for a trial on a first-offense case, although they can climb to $7,500 or more with some lawyers. Oberman says trial costs can be closer to $20,000. Cost: $2,000-$25,000.
Fines. Fines and court fees for breaking the law vary by state, from a minimum of $600 in Colorado and $685 in Washington to as much as $1,200 in Illinois. "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-$1,200.
Alcohol evaluation. An evaluation is usually required of anyone who is sentenced for drunken driving. Cost: $250 in Illinois, 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: $150-$2,000 for basic treatment.
Alcohol-monitoring leg bracelet. Scram devices, like that worn by actress Lindsay Lohan, which measure the alcohol content in your perspiration, are becoming more commonplace, Oberman says. Cost: about $100 to install and about $10 per day, or $300 per month.
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: $95-$250.
Additional fees. Colorado, for example, will slap you with myriad other fees:
- $10-$50 jail filing fee.
- $78 Victim Assistance Fund payment.
- $33 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 the vehicle from starting if you're intoxicated. In Tennessee, for example, this costs $75 a month, plus an installation fee. In Illinois, it's closer to $1,290, says attorney Wallin. Cost: $325 and up.
Finally, there are several other costs that you need to remember:
- Life insurance premiums can rise. 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 means lost pay. People who get 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, maybe lose the job. For many people who drive to and from work -- not to mention those who drive as part of their work -- 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 even longer in some states, until you complete all the court's requirements and pay all fines.
- No drunks wanted 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, Oberman said.
- 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 stays on your driving record for 15 years, and an employer can ask for and receive that information. And a deferred prosecution, in which you're not convicted, stays on your record forever.
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 the DUI did not result in any accident or injuries. Colorado estimates $10,270.
Illinois' secretary of state pegs the amount closer to $12,100, but says the figure would be more than $16,000, 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 you lose isn't money, Oberman says. "The biggest thing here is the stigma that you get. Everybody looks at you and says, 'Yeah, 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."
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As I will certainly agree that drinking and driving are costly in a variety of areas. I also understand that a great deal of people do just that.
When the laws were changed from a 0.15, 0.13, 0.10 and now to a 0.08 (with serious consideration to go to a 0.05) for an impaired driving conviction. In other words if you now even drink one or two drinks you are impaired enough to risk a D.U.I. If you are involved in any kind of an accident they can get a conviction on a 0.04.
In other words the desire for you to say you've had enough has been diminished. The thinking is if I can get arrested for a D.U.I. with only having two beers then I might as well have as many as I want...the D.U.I. risk is the same for a 0.08 as a 0.12 or higher.
I believe the laws were designed for more convictions; i.e., more revenue, meaning more revenue and not so much as a moral issue. If morality were the issue then why not have a 0.01 as the standard and then outlaw all sales of alcohol from any business that would require its patrons to get back into their cars after drinking and then drive?
Think about it why does the government allow sales of tobacco and alcohol when they know it is harmful and costly to your personal well being as well as others?
A lot of our laws are all about revenue and less to do with the moral issue.
Always follow the money!
25 Years in Law Enforcement on the Jail end and let me tell you the truth..A DUI is the biggest money maker in the Law Enforcement world...DUI's make a lot of Lawyers Rich, Bail Bond Agency's Rich which are really fronts for Insurance Company's, Auto Insurance Company's Rich, Court Systems Solvent and Many Cities depend on the income from DUI's to balance their budgets... If people stopped drinking and driving millions of people across the country would suffer a financial down fall.
Here's a list of who would suffer: Fewer Police Officers, Judges, Lawyers, Court Clerks, Court Staff, Bail Bond Agencies and their staff, Insurance Company's who back the Bail Bond Agencies, Social Workers, Parole Officers, Jail Staff such as Clerks, & Nurses, Company's who make the testing equipment, Company's who sell Police cars, Sheriff's Record Clerks, etc. etc.
Why do you think City Government Direct the Police Departments to get out there and get those drunks off the road. Civic responsibility, Nope, pure and simple MONEY! DUI sweeps are not aimed at keeping drunks off the road their hoping to catch a lot of them for it stuffs the coffers...Same with Speeding Tickets...Why do you think the Police spend so much money designing "Stealth Cars" and such..has nothing to do with Traffic safety, or protecting the citizens,, their out to stuff the city Coffers....
Because IF Law enforcement was out there to Protect the Citizens they'd be out where you can see them not hiding and stalking potential financial victims to keep the City and Courts operating...Studies have shown Police Presence as being very visible cuts the crime rate at a higher rate than all this "stealth" maneuvering. The Problem is, most Officers do not have the personalities, abilities, or talent, to adequately interact verbally with the Community as a whole...In fact "Civilian" is a dirty word to these Officers because they think your all dumb and stupid and they are smarter than the average big Dog... The Police Command Staff just plays the Political game in order to keep that money rolling in for their salaries, they also don't think much of you "Civilians"...
So it is pretty easy for Obama to turn your local Police into a National Police Force which is what he is doing but your not seeing it or hearing about it, or recognize it for what it is or what is happening, because the money needed to do it is being funneled via "Grants" whereas to get the funds the local police have to set up to follow the National Standard....So if the Demoncrats have their way in a few years they will have a National Police Force similar to what Lenin Stalin and Hitler had.....and Your paying for it.....
DUI seems to be the only crime where you're punished based on what COULD have happened.
While I think we should definitely throw the book at those who kill, maim or damage property due to drunk driving, the punishment seems severe for those who were just pulled over.
I know MADD is behind this, and must say I've lost a great amount of respect for them. I once heard a MADD mother claim that "losing a child to drunk driving is the worst thing that could ever happen." Considering a friend of mine who lost a daughter to a rapist/murderer, I beg to differ.
I think MADD just wants their pound of flesh -- and since they can't get it from the drunk who killed their child, they will take it out on anyone who gets a DUI.
I would propose stiffer sentences for multiple offenders and those who kill, injure or damage property, and lightening the sentence for those who were pulled over for another reason. Enough already.
the penalties are "not" designed to discourage offenders.
the penalties are designed to generate revenue for the city and county.
if the police enforcement, city, county and state truly wanted to curtail dui's, then they would ban liqour sales from places where people "drive" to.
but the more drinks that are sold, the more taxes that are paid to the state comptrollers office by the bar owners.
the morality issue behind drinking and driving is hyprocritical because the local governments and business make a lot of money when it comes to alcohol sales and even more money when the poor fool leaves the bar after having 1 or 2 drinks.
I had a daughter who was pulled over and had a .03 blood level which is well below the legal limit but was bulled into pleading guilty by the court. It cost her tons of money even though she was well below the legal limit. Wake up people it all about the states making money, they could care less about loss of life. How many people epically the elderly have had to for go medication because of the choice of having to decide if eating is more important then their medication, the federal, state and local governments don't seem to concerned about them. I'm sere they will show compassion as soon as they find a way to add a tax or fine to hunger or lack of medication.
2 DUI's here, First one .08 and second one after 8 years .08. Total cost to date $23,000. The real problem is the license issue. I live alone and dont have someone to cart me around. I drive to put food on my table, however I do this as an uninsured driver because my license is gone with no possiblility of a work permit and no public transportation to get me 50 miles each way to work.
The government solution, go on welfare or risk others by being unisured. I will never drink and drive again due to the fines, probation, victim impact panel, alcohol group counseling, mandatory AA, 40 hour driving class, 1 month house arrest, intoxilizer on vehical for a year when i am able to get my license, lawyer fees, bail, insurance cost, job related time off due to these hoops, being turned down to rent a place to live, the list can continue, but the state forcing me to either be on welfare or drive uninsured is just stupidity!
Do all of yourselves a big favor, don't get behind the wheel if you been drinking! Take a taxi, bum a ride, walk if you can. Even if you walk and get caught it will be for P. I. only, and there are some cops out there that will give you a ride home anyway. Getting busted for DUI these days is way to expensive, not to mention you might hurt or kill someone. Just isn't worth it!
You want to get back at these "money mongering governments" , follow what I have just said, it will eventually put a lot of them out of a job!!
If by punishing people severely for something they did not do stopped he death toll from dui without destroying the living who did not kill anyone or even get in an accident then perhaps it would make sense to have these unfair trap laws. The problem i that most people in the us are stupid and overly emotional and the governments are greedy. It is unfair to have these ridiculous laws put it makes sense if you consider what morons most Americans are. Look who is running for president in 2012. There are simply too many dumb people electing idiots into office and the result is laws like the current dui laws that don't stop dui deaths and create a new group of homeless and welfare people. The winners are lawyers and the police departments.
Madd is a group of idiots that have exacerbated a problem and made it ten times worse.
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