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The extremely high cost of a DUI

Those 3 beers at happy hour could turn into a $15,000 ordeal if you're arrested and convicted of drunken driving. There are lots of ways to get home safely.

By MSN Money Partner May 28, 2013 1:53PM

This post comes from Craig Donofrio at partner site Money Talks News. 

MoneyTalksNews logoAt its worst, drinking and driving can be fatal -- for you or for someone else. At best, a drunken-driving conviction will cost you thousands of dollars in fines, attorney's fees and higher insurance premiums.

Ted Hollander, a lawyer who handles DUI cases at The Ticket Clinic, told Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson that a DUI can easily cost a driver $15,000. estimates that a first drunken-driving conviction will cost at least $10,000. 

Where do all those costs come from?

Initial costs and fines

Upon your arrest, you'll likely have to post bail -- from several hundred to several thousand dollars -- which will be returned to you minus nonrefundable fees if you appear as scheduled in court. You may also have to pay towing and impound fees to get your car back, likely an additional $100 to $200.

Upon your conviction, you'll pay a fine, which can run from the hundreds to thousands of dollars, plus additional court costs. For instance, the fine for a first offense in Texas is up to $2,000, and $10,000 if there was a passenger younger than 15 in the car.

DUI classes

You'll be required to take a class on the dangers of drunken driving, and you'll have to pay for it. In Florida, it's $250 for a 12-hour class. In Connecticut, you’ll be looking at $550 or $750 for a 10- or 15-week program. Plus, there's an additional cost for drug and alcohol screening.

License fees

Your license will be suspended, possibly for a year. To get it back, you'll have to pay a restoration fee, which varies by state. In New Jersey, for example, it'll cost you $100. In Minnesota, reinstatement costs $680.

Attorney's fees

The fee charged by your lawyer can vary by experience level, location and the complexity of the case. An MSN Money article gives a range of $250 for entering a guilty plea to up to $25,000 if you fight the charge in court.

Insurance premiums

According to, a DUI will increase your insurance by an average of 19%. However, the increase can vary depending on factors like where you live and your insurance company. A recent blog post on gave an example of a typical California driver who would pay at least $2,500 more per year. (Use's "Uh, Oh!" calculator for an estimate.)

How long you'll pay a higher insurance rate depends on your insurance company, but generally it’s no less than three years.

Ignition interlocks

An ignition interlock is a device that records your blood alcohol content and allows the car to start only if your BAC is below a set limit. Installation costs $100 to $200, and monthly rental fees range from $70 to $100, according to Regular maintenance and calibration cost extra.

Fourteen states require ignition interlocks after a first conviction. For example, Connecticut suspends a first-time DUI offender’s license for 45 days, then requires an ignition interlock device be installed in all of the offender's registered vehicles for a year.

Other costs

Other consequences could drive the financial drain of a DUI way above the $10,000 to $15,000 mark. In a worst-case scenario, you'll lose your job, particularly if your occupation requires driving. Also, a DUI could affect the status of your professional license to practice medicine or fly a plane, MSN Money says.

Those who keep their jobs could lose valuable work time attending to the requirements of court appearances, DUI school, community service, counseling and jail.

If you're unable to get a hardship permit that would allow you to drive to and from work while your license is suspended, you'll have to figure in additional transportation costs.

A DUI could also impact future employment. How long the offense remains on your record depends on your state, but in many states it's permanent. A prospective employer will find that information in a background check.

Let's compare all of this with the cost of a taxi, which I figure is $15, including tip, for a trip from downtown New Orleans to my home five miles away. That's one of your options to avoid getting arrested on a charge of DUI.

Here are some others:

  • You can schedule SafeRide America via its website to drive your car home if you live in the Atlanta or Tampa, Fla., areas.
  • In Georgia, there's a free Drive Sober app to find a ride home, sponsored by the Governor's Office of Highway Safety.
  • AAA DUI Justice Link provides an extensive list of sober ride services around the country, broken down by state. Find a nearby service and save the number in your phone. The list was compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  • AAA chapters in many states offer Tow To Go and other similar services during holidays.
  • The Taxi Finder app has a taxi directory and fare estimator for 40 North American cities.

More on Money Talks News:

May 28, 2013 5:17PM
So if it's late at night and I have had a couple beers several hours ago and I get pulled over because a cop figures I shouldn't be driving that late, he will take me in and book me weather I am over the limit or not, right.  So I will still have to get a lawyer and go through some sort of inconvenience for taking the time to sober up.  So in turn, let's say i am driving along and I plug my phone in and a cop sees it and thinks I am texting.  Will I have to get a lawyer again for that?  The accidents are not prevented by randomly pulling people over and checking if they are drunk.  I am so tired of all our rights being eroded away.  It wil soon come time when the only place we can feel safe from our fascist government is in our living rooms.  It's all a money grab folks and you buy into the hype but .08 to .16 are not the ones who are dangerous, it's the .18 and above that are the bad ones.  We are constantly making rules that turn responsible citizens into criminals. 
May 28, 2013 4:55PM

Where is all the OUTRAGE for Texting while driving??? We even let it have a gentle sounding name "distracted driving"............ hell gals even like that.... they like being distracting.


Moms hate drinkers but after all it's their daughters texting........  don't want to offend their sensitivity.

May 29, 2013 9:13AM
The system is designed to nail everyone, guilty or not. 
"Anything that you say can be used AGAINST you in a court of law". 
It doesn't say "Anything that you say can be used to prove your innocence in a court of law".

Cops are paid to punish & destroy people, not to protect their rights. Not to be on your side. 
Be it DUI or anything else you are accused of, the system is all designed for dollars. Law enforcement is structured to reward themselves for jailing people, guilty or not. 

I'm all for prosecuting those who are guilty, but for the guy or gal that's innocent, the system is set up to devastate them. 

4LoveofMoney said : "Whatever the figure, it will never be as low as the price of a taxi."

Agreed. Get a taxi if you're drunk. Save a life, even if it's your own. 
May 29, 2013 11:27PM

My daughter got a Dui.  With the classes, fines, etc. it cost $10,000.  She also lost her job because

they took away her license and she couldn't get to work.  The DUI classes were scheduled during work hours, and so between the lack of transportation and class requirement she lost her job.

I do not condone drunk driving, but this was a first offense, and she's never had a ticket. A lot of people are making a lot of money off DUI's. The courts, the state, the instructors in the classes, the probation officers, etc. 

 This DUI didn't involve speeding, any accident, weaving, or poor driving.  The officer sat outside a night club and anyone leaving was breathalized when they put the key in the car.  To get an attorney to represent her would have cost $1800 right up front - money she and the family didn't have.

The amount of alcohol in the blood/breath to get a DUI has gone down year after year. Words to the wise: even one drink can put you over the limit, especially if you are small, lightweight, etc.  

May 29, 2013 11:05AM
Yes it is costly and people are getting the point.  That is why here in Colorado the powers that be want to lower the DUI level from .8 to .5, thinly veiled as making our roads safer and getting drunks off the road.  However it is also a revenue enhancer, filling up the coffers as additional revenue. 
May 28, 2013 5:26PM

It is against the law for drinking before or during driving and you can't text and drive.  What is one to do with all of this idle time.  I have dinner.  I drive with my knees while I eat a big two handed size burger while holding my drink between my knees and reading the paper that is spread out across the passenger seat.  Well, I am legal.

May 28, 2013 4:40PM
Whatever the figure, it will never be as low as the price of a taxi.
Jun 17, 2013 1:19PM
The DUI laws are a scam...they do not prevent drivers from being drunk but they are a good source of revenue for a state.  DUI is an industry all by itself.
Jun 17, 2013 1:20PM
May 29, 2013 11:39PM

If you had a few beers and are sitting stopped at a red light, and an idiot MAD mother talking on her cell phone plows into you........your at fault.   Just doesn't seem fair.


I am all for throwing the book at some one if there is personal injury or property damage, but a block away from you home .08 (maybe .05) and your life is ruined, seems excessive to me.  


Again, if you hurt somebody, plow into a hot dog stand, or something like that, hang em high.  I have no problem with that.   My God, we all know drives we wouldn't want to ride with when they are sober, and would gladly get into a tipsy friends car instead.

May 29, 2013 3:34PM
Maybe some of you posters will be a little less critical and cavalier if you lose a child to a drunk driver as we have ( AND, although it makes no difference, he was an illegal with no license and a previous conviction). I do agree that the latest whacko idea coming out of Washington to cut it to .05 is ridiculous, but the truly hammered should have their nuts squeezed hard the first time and cut off the second offense.
Jun 17, 2013 1:28PM
Moo....Moo... can you say police-state Cash Cow!
I've had one of these $14k offenses and lost a job because I couldn't drive there anymore.
That was blowing a .09.  It was four beers in a little under two hours.  
The original offense was getting pulled over for having a fog lamp burned out. Mind you, I had a switch to turn them on and off.
Jun 17, 2013 12:57PM
I would be easier to just kill someone. Less penalty for that.
Jun 17, 2013 2:52PM
I had a lawyer friend tell me that the DUI scam is a political witch hunt and a person has more rights being charged with murder.  He is 100% correct.  No such thing as innocent until proven guilty with DUI.  The burden of proof flips over to the accused and you have to prove you are innocent instead of the other way around.  AND, I defy those lying, hypocritical judges and prosecutors to tell me they have never, at the very least, taken their wife or girlfriend out to dinner or a party and had a few and driven home like an normal person. 
May 29, 2013 2:21PM

The fines for any infraction and especially DUI have gone way up since 2006.  Soon you can call Colorado: California East.

Jun 17, 2013 1:40PM
Just sucks cause alcohol affects everybody differently and not everybody is tipsy at .08 or even .12 but nonetheless the law has to be low for the intolerant. Here's to hoping I never get caught in this bs money making scheme.
Jun 17, 2013 2:04PM
 Texting and driving should be treated the same with the same fines. Studies show it to be more dangerous.
 These laws only apply to normally law abiding citizens who have property and a job.  If you are an illegal or a near do well or on welfare, you get a pass because you have no resources.

Jun 17, 2013 1:55PM
This is the number one reason why pot should be legalized, it does not impair people to the point that they cannot drive, like alcohol does. But DEA, Law enforcement, lawyers and the corporate media will insist that it does because where are they going to make all the money that they will loose?
Jun 17, 2013 1:26PM
john simon 
  you are absolutely right. it's all about money and getting every american under the thumb 
of law enforcement.
 maybe someone should argue entrapment. Where i live, every single restaurant, bar, cafe,hot dog stand serves alchohol
May 29, 2013 1:02PM

My brother got a DUI in 2006 and while all the above costs are certainly possible depending on where you live, I'd say that's definitely on the high end of the spectrum. It ended up costing him about $3,000 and half of that was attorney's fees. Also, his driver's license was not suspended. The biggest pain for him was definitely the classes, which were like 2 hours a week for 12 weeks and cost something like $40 a class. Surprisingly, there was no fine, though there were like $400 in court costs. This was in Colorado. Apparently they're relatively easy on you the first time but really throw the book at you for a repeat offense. I think there's mandatory jail time the second time, loss of license for a year and a four figure fine.

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