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the true cost of a dui

Everyone knows that driving under the influence is dangerous, irresponsible, and illegal, but here's something else that doesn't always get talked about — DUI convictions are incredibly expensive.

Why DUI convictions are so costly

Law enforcement is doing everything it can to prevent drunk driving, and that includes making convictions cost a small fortune. The exact cost varies by state and by circumstance, but let's take a look at a modest estimate from the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs (ADP) of what a first-time DUI conviction could cost:

Fines/penalties … $1,500

The fine for a first-time DUI conviction ranges from $390 to $1,000, but convicted drivers can generally count on an additional penalty assessment fee that's 3 times that number.

Towing/impound fee … $215

Obviously, drunk drivers aren't fit to drive home once they're pulled over. The police call a tow truck to the scene and have the car impounded.

Treatment program … $626

Like many states, first-time DUI offenders in California need to complete either a 30- or 60-hour treatment program. The length of the program depends on the driver's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of arrest.

Court costs … $800

These are costs associated with filing court paperwork and mandatory court appearances. These costs vary depending on the length of the case and the severity of the offense.

DUI attorney fees … $2,500

A good DUI lawyer can help mitigate the legal ramifications, but they can come at a high cost. This number can be higher if the lawyer is defending other charges on top of the DUI.

Restitution fund … $500

This money is paid to the California Victim Compensation Program, which is a state fund that assists crime victims.

DMV reissue fee … $125

This is the fee you have to pay to get your license back after the required 4-month suspension.

Insurance premium increase … $2,700

Insurance companies determine premiums based on risk. And anyone who got behind the wheel after a few rounds definitely counts as a risky driver. Those convicted of a DUI can generally expect to pay higher premiums, often for a number of years.

Total approximate cost … $8,966

And that's a conservative estimate on first-time DUI convictions. Repeat offenses or DUIs with higher levels of blood alcohol concentration generally exact stiffer penalties and higher costs.

DUI costs in other states

Different states have different regulations when it comes to DUI penalties. But one element remains consistent — drinking and driving convictions are expensive everywhere. The Alaska DMV estimates that over 5 years, a DUI costs the convicted driver almost $25,000, and Tennessee estimates that figure at between $5,000 and $10,000.

In addition to the penalties and higher car insurance premiums, states may require convicted drivers to file SR-22 (or FR-44) forms through their insurers. These forms certify that a driver carries a mandated amount of liability insurance. And naturally enough, they cost the driver a fee each time they're filed.

The true cost of a DUI varies based on a wide range of factors and state regulations. But we hope this page gets the point across: DUIs cost a whole lot of money, and drunk driving is never worth the risk.

Related links

DUIs and car insurance
Learn more about how a DUI conviction affects a driver's policy.

SR-22s and FR-44s
Find out about the insurance-certifying forms some states require from convicted drivers.