How Much Does a DUI Cost? | Family Finance

With any luck, you’re reading this article about how much a DUI costs before you go out drinking and driving – and not after you were pulled over.


If you are reading it after being pulled over for drinking while under the influence, there isn’t much good news to give you. Being arrested for a DUI can become a financial nightmare.

As it should, of course. While the numbers have dropped considerably over the years, drunk driving still occurs far too often. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, almost 30 people in the United States die every day in a crash related to drunk driving.

And while one might think the pandemic would have lowered those statistics to something close to zero a day, that’s not the case. Possibly due to the stress related to the virus, the numbers of drunk driving arrests in some areas of the country have actually gone up.

Whatever your situation, if you’re curious about how much one is likely to spend after being pulled over for drinking and driving, here are answers to your likely questions.

How Much Will Being Arrested for a DUI Cost You?

It’s tough to tell anyone how much a DUI will cost because a lot of factors are in play. It depends how much you were drinking, the state and city you were pulled over in, your age and other factors.

Peter Liss, a criminal defense lawyer in San Diego, says that the total cost of a DUI could easily reach $10,000. Arnold Chapman, a former trucker and founder and CEO of, an online magazine in the automotive industry, predicts that you’ll shell out $10,000 to $30,000.

Why Is a DUI So Expensive?

Much of the costs with a DUI that are incurred have to do with hiring an attorney and how your insurance will react. Also, there are lots of fees.

Nick Wilder, a New York City trial attorney who specializes in driving while impaired or intoxicated cases, says: “If you run into the problem of DUI, there are three main expenses – criminal penalties, an insurance increase and attorney fees.”

The penalties, Wilder adds, “vary considerably, depending on your blood alcohol content and how many times you have been caught.”

How Do the Costs of a DUI Break Down?

Court fees. If you’re pulled over for a DUI and the police have evidence to suggest you’re intoxicated, you will be taken to jail.

“For a first offense with below .08% (blood alcohol content), the penalty is about $400, but if you have a third-time offense of over .08%, penalties can be up to $10,000 and seven years in prison,” Wilder says.

The amount you are fined for a DUI also depends on where you live. Liss says that if you’re found guilty of drunk driving in San Diego, the fine is $2,133.

In Ohio, you might spend as much as $1,075, says Ben Luftman, a criminal defense attorney in Dublin, Ohio, who specializes in DUI cases.

Car towing and impound fees. Once you get out of jail, you have to get your car.

Because your car has been towed somewhere. Chapman estimates you’ll spend $100 to $1,200 to get your car returned.

Also, you may not be able to drive your car off the police department’s impound lot. You’ll need a family or friend for that. Chances are, your driver’s license has been taken away from you.

Hiring an attorney. If this was your first offense, and you were just barely over the limit, you might elect to show up in court and pay your fine, and maybe you won’t end up having any attorney costs, or very low attorney costs. (Either way, consult with an attorney before deciding you won’t use one.)

In some cases, you definitely will want to consider hiring an attorney. “If you are facing felony charges, such as for multiple offenses above .08%, you could face several years in jail. Then you must hire an attorney, and that can get pricey to keep you out of prison,” Wilder says.

Luftman says: “Depending on many factors, including location, experience, ability, reputation and what actually needs to be done with a case, a person can spend up to $10,000 on their attorney.”

License fees. In many states, you will automatically lose your driver’s license if you are found guilty of a DUI. If you are pulled over while intoxicated in Colorado and found guilty, you can say goodbye to your driver’s license for nine months.

If it happens in Pennsylvania, and this is your first time, you won’t lose your license. The state will not be so lenient if it happens again – you will lose your license for a year and get some jail time, from five days to six months.

If you do lose your license, when it’s time to get it back, you’ll have to pay a reinstatement fee. Chapman estimates you’ll pay $20 to $200.

Transportation costs. If you lose your license, you’ll want to budget for the cost of taking a bus, an Uber or some other method of public transportation.

Insurance costs. This can be a very painful part of a DUI. Your insurance premiums will go up considerably.

On average, a drunk driving conviction will cause a person’s premiums to increase 20% to 25% for up to three to 10 years, depending on the insurance company, according to Earl Jones, who owns Earl L. Jones Insurance Agency, which is based in Sunnyvale, California.

“They will also have very limited choices for auto insurance during that time frame, as they typically are ineligible for auto insurance with the big-name carriers. As such, they will also lose their auto and home discounts as well, which can be another 15% to 20%,” Jones says.

“They will also have to pay for an SR-22 as well, which can vary in price from $22 and up,” he adds.

What is an SR-22? It’s a certificate of insurance that offers proof that you carry car insurance.

“A DUI conviction can make it very challenging to get life insurance as well during that time period,” Jones says. “As a lot of carriers will not write life insurance on a person with a major driving conviction such as a DUI.”

Substance abuse class. “Some states will require you to join a substance abuse class. The classes are at least $1,000 to $3,000,” Chapman says.

Luftman says that in Ohio, a DUI driver can take a state-certified driver intervention program that will cost at least $300. If the driver doesn’t have $300 or doesn’t want to pay it, he or she can go to jail for three days.

An ignition interlock device. “Some defendants have to install an ignition interlock device in their car,” Liss says.

That’s a device you hook up to your car. You breathe into it, and if there’s alcohol in your breath, the car won’t start. If no alcohol is detected, your car will start. That can cost from about $100 to $150 to install, Liss says.

Meanwhile, Liss says that you’ll also pay about $75 a month to have the ignition interlock device in your car.

Alcohol monitor ankle bracelet. If this isn’t your first offense, and the court really fears having you on the road without some oversight, you may need to wear a Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor. It’s an alcohol monitor ankle bracelet. Liss says that it costs $500 a month.

“Sometimes on felony DUIs, defendants can be ordered a SCRAM – or have an ignition interlock device for six months to a year. Occasionally SCRAM is required for three years,” Liss says.

Are There Any Other Costs Associated With a DUI?

There are other potential costs to consider. For instance, Chapman says that you may have to take random urine tests and drug screenings after a DUI, which can cost as much as $100. You could have to do community service and pay a community service supervision fee, generally around $100.

“There’s no direct way to quantify this cost but, unfortunately, you may lose or not be offered a job at all if an employer sees a DUI on your history after a criminal background check. This tends to lead to financial strain,” Luftman says.

Still, on the bright side, and there is definitely a bright side for those pulled over for a DUI, presuming nothing bad happened yet, the police officer may have done you and members of your community the biggest favor you can imagine. Because if you were pulled over before something bad happened, with the right support and attitude, you should be able to rebound from this. The price one pays for driving while intoxicated is extremely high. But the price somebody else may pay due to your negligence is far higher.

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