It’s no secret that drunk driving is a big problem in this country. Whether we blame it on the individuals who drive drunk, the lack of good public transportation or the high cost of cabs, the result remains the same. Almost inevitably, many of us at some point in our lives will break the law and make the poor decision to drive with a BAC (blood alcohol content) above the legal limit. According to the FBI more than 1.41 million people were arrested for driving drunk in 2010 alone. Whether you’ve done it once, never done it, or do it on a regular basis, you should be informed of both the legal and financial penalties of getting a DUI.
What is a DUI and What Can I Get a DUI For?
DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence. Most people incorrectly believe that DUIs are only given for driving with a BAC of .08 or more. You can get a DUI anytime you are driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, even if your BAC is below .08 and you are still impaired. Of the few people who know that they can get a DUI for driving with drugs in their system, most do not realize that the drug doesn’t even have to be an illegal drug. If you are driving under the influence of a legally prescribed drug and the police officer believes it is impairing your ability to operate that vehicle, the officer can issue you a DUI.
Interestingly enough, you can also get a DUI for operating a vehicle other than a car. In many states, if you ride a bicycle under the influence, you can also get a DUI. In most states you can get a DUI for operating a boat drunk as well. No matter what leads to a DUI, the penalties are the same. Also, understand that the term DUI can be construed widely. If you are drunk and asleep behind the wheel, even when the engine is turned off, you can still get a DUI.
What Penalties Result from a DUI?
Needless to say, the government takes DUIs very seriously because drunk driving costs the United States government over $132 billion and kills approximately 10,000 people per year. It should be no surprise then that the penalties, both monetary and legal-related are very severe, even for first-time-offenders. Below is a list of most, but not all, of the penalties that could result from receiving a DUI.
- Jail time (especially if it’s not your first offense)
- Driver’s license revocation or suspension
- Potential loss of employment or acceptance to a University
- Court fees and other fines
- Problems with future employment
- Huge increases in car insurance rates
- Embarrassment amongst your family and friends
- Drug and alcohol classes
- Community service hours
How Much Does a DUI Cost?
Getting a DUI can have drastic consequences on your financial situation. Obviously the cost will vary by state and the severity of the DUI (for example, if you got in an accident or your BAC was above .15) as well as whether you’re a first time offender, but the national average cost of a DUI is around $10,000. According to onedui.com and msn.com the estimated breakdown of DUI Costs are as follows:
- Attorney Fees – $2500+ (Average). Using a lawyer to defend or handle your DUI will be your biggest immediate cost. However, even though a lawyer can be quite costly, it is definitely to your advantage to hire a DUI lawyer. In the long-run a lawyer should save you more money than they cost. If you want a more in-depth analysis of the advantages of a DUI lawyer, check out why to hire a DUI lawyer.
- Towing – $100-$1,200+. When you are arrested, your car has to be towed and if it was in an accident, it usually has to be stored as evidence. Some cities, including Chicago, charge about $1,200 for just the first 24 hours and $50 a day after that. So if you cannot make bail and have to stay in jail for a while, your towing expenses could reach into the thousands. Even worse, some cities will auction your car if you are stuck in jail and haven’t claimed it for 30 days!
- Auto Insurance Increase – $2,200-$6,000. Many people don’t think about this when they first get a DUI, but a DUI will drastically affect your insurance rates for at least 3-5 years. Your rates could double, triple or in some cases even quadruple! Sometimes it can take up to 8 years to get your insurance premiums back to normal status.
- Bail – $150-$2,500. This is the cost of getting to be out of jail until your trial arrives. The cost for bail rises very quickly if you need to use a bail bondsman/company to loan you the money for bail.
- Alcohol Abuse/Awareness Mandatory Programs – $425+. About one-third of all DUI arrests or convictions are for repeat offenders. Therefore, most states try to educate DUI offenders by requiring that they enroll in alcohol abuse and alcohol awareness programs. The programs and their costs will vary by state, but rest-assured you will almost definitely have to spend both time and money on an alcohol or drug-related class.
- Court Fines – $395-$1,095+. These fines are similar to you having to pay a speeding ticket. Regardless if you choose to plead guilty to your DUI or not, you will have to pay court fees. However, if you are found guilty, your fees will be drastically higher. This is one of the advantages of having a good lawyer fight your conviction – if he wins, your fines will be much lower.
When Should I Hire a DUI Lawyer?
Before you ask yourself “when should I hire a DUI lawyer” you’re probably going to ask “do I need to hire a DUI lawyer?.” I will tell you right away that you are foolish. While a lawyer might not be able to get your DUI charge entirely wiped off your record, a lawyer can almost always help lessen the severity of your conviction. Typically, in a DUI situation, lawyers will save you more money in the long run than they will cost you.
Most would advise that you should hire a DUI lawyer as soon as possible and before you decide to speak to the police. Much of what you say after you are arrested can be used against you in court and oftentimes can be the difference between being convicted as guilty or not-guilty. You definitely want to hire a lawyer before you enter a guilty or not-guilty plea on your first court appearance. You can go here to find a good DUI lawyer.
DUIs are clearly a huge concern for the offenders, the government, and the safety of the general public, so its important to be educated about DUI penalties and costs and to avoid getting a DUI however possible. To avoid getting a DUI, make sure to follow @MrCheckPoint on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates on DUI checkpoints in different cities.