Know How Much a DUI Costs

Edited by Train Wreck, Eng, VisiHow

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The cost of driving under the influence (DUI) can be $40,000 or more. Our DUI cost breakdown includes a DUI lawyer cost, DUI insurance costs, DUI school costs, state fines and penalties, as well as several other factors. Among those factors we've also included jail time, resulting in a loss of income or even a job, and transportation costs until your driving license is reinstated. While first offense DUI penalties can and do vary from state to state and around the world, there are some basic factors we'll discuss below to help you understand the actual cost of a DUI as well as the long term costs. Of course, we recommend learning how to be a designated driver before you get to the DUI stage.

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First Time DUI Costs - $9,100

First time offenders are often treated more leniently in most legal systems. This is not always true for a DUI offense though. Depending on just how far you are over the legal limit of 0.08% Blood Alcohol Content (BAC), the penalties and fines could be much more severe even for a first time offender. With this in mind, we've compiled an average range of basic costs for all 50 states. Hopefully this will literally be a sobering list, and you'll consider alternatives to drinking and driving before taking your life and the lives of others in your hands.

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  1. 1
    $750 Court Costs and Fines.
    This will range from a low of about $250 to a high of around $1,500. Don't forget that you're also missing a day of work for every day you are required to be in court.
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  2. 2
    $2,000 Lawyer Costs.
    Your costs will be zero if you do not hire a lawyer or use a public defender, which is not recommended. Assuming you hire a good lawyer, expect these costs to run an average of $2,000. If you have to hire a great lawyer, then look for much higher costs.
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  3. 3
    $600 Lost Income.
    A conservative estimate of the amount of money you will lose from not working is easily $600, based on a yearly income of about $30,000 and assuming you will lose at least a week of work ($570). In reality, you should expect to lose much more. If you lose your job, obviously the costs will be much, much higher.
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  4. 4
    $350 Counseling or Substance Abuse Program.
    This is where you will go to sit with other people in a required counseling class. It generally costs from about $150 to $500. You will also need to figure out how to get there, since you won't have a driving license. That can cost more, especially if you don't have access to public transportation, or live out of town.
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  5. 5
    $500 Ignition Lock.
    This is a system that forces you to take a breathalyzer before your car will start. In most states the installation cost starts at $100, and there are also monthly rental fees of up to $100. You'll be required to have this system installed for three to six months in most cases. While all states don't require it, many do, so be prepared for this. The cost of explaining it to anyone who gets in the car with you will of course be much higher.
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  6. 6
    $600 Transportation Costs.
    We're going to be very generous and assume you have access to someone to drive you to and from work for the three months or more your driving license will be suspended for a DUI. That's just $200 per month. In reality your license could be suspended for much longer, and you could end up paying thousands to get to work and back.
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  7. 7
    $4,000 Insurance Costs.
    Again, we're making a low estimate here. You're going to need to carry high risk insurance for a period of three years. That will add a minimum of $1,000 a year to your existing insurance policy. In reality, it can add much more to the total cost depending on where you live and what you drive.
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  8. 8
    $300 License Reinstatement.
    Once you have completed the court mandated requirements to be eligible for a new driving license, you'll have to pay for it. This ranges from about $250 to $500, depending on the state. There may be additional fines as well.
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Assuming you did have an accident, or hurt someone, you could be looking at costs that are much higher than this article can accurately calculate. If you want figures for your state DUI costs, please refer to our references section, where you'll find a list from NOLO on the cost of a DUI for each of the 50 states[1].

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The REAL Cost of a DUI

Now that we've looked at the approximate $9,000 your DUI is going to cost, let's take a deeper look at what that figure actually represents to explain why it's really much more than the raw costs. For example:

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  1. 1
    $10,000 Minor Child.
    If you had a minor child with you at the time of your arrest, you'll pay an additional $10,000 or more in many states. Now our DUI cost is up to $19,000. We haven't even considered the up to two years in jail you can get for this offense. Note -- we used Texas DUI statistics for this $10,000 figure[2].
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  2. 2
    $15,000 Jail Time.
    Many states can and will give you a mandatory 180 days in jail for a first time DUI offense. This means three months of lost income. Easily add an extra $15,000, bringing your total DUI cost to a staggering $34,000.
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  3. 3
    $6,000 Lost Interest.
    You may be scratching your head on this one, so we'll explain. Assuming you lost $34,000 in total due to your DUI, which includes insurance costs over a period of three years, we've calculated that as an investment at a below average rate of return. Assuming $34,000 invested over three years at a return of 7%, and factoring in a 15% tax, you would have earned $6,000 on that money (and still had the initial $34,000 investment).
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Based on these figures, we're comfortable stating that a DUI will cost you a minimum of $5,000 if you're very lucky. If you're unlucky, then it could cost you $40,000 or more. If you injured someone, or damaged property, those costs also fall on you, meaning you could be financially ruined.

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The solution? Don't drink and drive. Call a taxi or use a designated driver. It really is that simple.

References on DUI Costs

  1. NOLO Legal Encyclopedia
  2. Texas Department of Transportation
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See more related tutorials: Treat Alcohol Poisoning, Drink on Antibiotics, Drink Alcohol and Exercise, Get Rid of Alcohol Breath, Be a Designated Driver, Sleep After Drinking, DUI Fines, Drink Responsibly, Determine If You Have Alcohol Poisoning, Drink Without Getting Drunk, Eat Before You Drink Alcohol, Get Help with a Drinking Problem, and Drink Alcohol.

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Recent edits by: Eng, Train Wreck

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