How much did those last few drinks before your DUI cost you? $5? $10? Maybe a pricy craft cocktail for $15? What if we told you that those drinks actually will cost you thousands of dollars if you get a DUI?
The obvious dangers of drinking and driving are hurting yourself or others if you get into an accident, but have you considered the financial costs? Not only are there fines involved, but you'll also need to hire a lawyer, pay money to get your license back, and pay hefty insurance premiums because you're now considered a high-risk driver.
Not to mention, if your job requires a driver's license or clean driving record, you might have to kiss that goodbye with a DUI conviction on your record.
To learn about the true costs of a DUI and why you need to hire the right lawyer, keep reading.
Should I Hire a Lawyer?
So you got a DUI and you're wondering if you need to hire a lawyer. The short answer is yes. If you get a DUI, don't try to navigate the criminal justice system process alone.
Even if it's your first offense, you should still hire a lawyer. An experienced DUI lawyer may be able to get the charges reduced to reckless driving. They also might be able to get the charges dropped if the officer didn't make the stop properly or follow the law regarding testing your BAC.
A DUI attorney will be able to best advise you on how to plead and can negotiate with the prosecutor on your behalf. Hiring the right attorney is important. Make sure whomever you choose has experience with DUI cases
The True Costs of A DUI
The costs of getting a DUI aren't just financial. There are also ramifications that will impact your license, your job, and even your freedom.
In South Carolina, for example, the average cost of a first-offense DUI is between $7,700 and $10,100. Here's the breakdown of just the court costs and fees:
- Minimum fine amount: $400 (for a first offense, this could be as high as $1000)
- Penalty assessment: $600
- State restitution fund: $100
- Education fund: $40
- Fee for breathalyzer: $37
- Driving school fee: $375
- License reissue fee (your license will be suspended for 6 months and you need to pay to get it back): $100
On top of those fees, you'll also likely want to hire a lawyer. Fees for a lawyer might be in the thousands, depending on how good your attorney is. The money you spend will be worth it, though, if he or she can get you off or get your charges and fines and fees reduced.
If your insurance company doesn't drop you when it comes time for renewal, at a minimum, they are going to raise your rates significantly. Because you have a DUI on your record, you're now considered a high-risk driver and will pay for that.
The rates vary widely, depending on where you live and how much coverage you get. It's important to shop around to see who can offer you the best rate, just like you would shop around for insurance if you didn't have a DUI conviction.
Another thing to be aware of is the need for an SR-22. An SR-22 is an official document that proves that you have sufficient car insurance. SR-22s are used for high-risk drivers who have been convicted of DUI or DWI, reckless driving, at-fault accidents, etc.
If your state requires this, you'll get a court order or a notice from your state DMV. Your insurance company will then need to complete the form for you. In South Carolina, you'll need to have this form for 3 years. This basically means that for at least 3 years, your insurance rates are going to be much higher than if you did not have a DUI conviction.
In addition to fines, court costs, and losing your license, you can also face jail time for a first time DUI offense in South Carolina.
You could face anywhere from 48 hours to 90 days in jail. A jail sentence is typically dependent on your BAC at the time of the arrest. The penalties will increase for subsequent offenses as well.
If your BAC was .15 or higher, you'll also need an ignition interlock device. This device requires you to blow into it to prove that you are not impaired in order to start the car. The car won't start if there is any alcohol present in your breath test.
The device also requires you to provide breath samples throughout the trip to verify that YOU continue to be alcohol-free (and also to make sure that you didn't have someone else provide a breath sample so you could start the vehicle).
The device also keeps track of your activity, so if you try to start your vehicle and are not able to due to alcohol on your breath, it will record that and provide that information to the agency or court that is monitoring the device.
There's a financial cost to this as well. You'll have to pay an installation fee and a monthly leasing fee. These costs can range from $70 to $150 for installation and $40-$100 a month for leasing and monitoring.
The costs of a DUI are not worth it. With all of the different rideshare options, like Uber and Lyft, traditional taxis, and even services where companies will pick you up and drive your car home for you, there's no excuse for drinking and driving.
If you do find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being arrested for a DUI, contact us for a consultation on your case. We'll walk you through your options and you can decide if we are right for you.