How Much Will a DUI Lawyer Cost?

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 What is a DUI?

The acronym “DUI” stands for Driving Under the Influence. Every state has some version of a DUI statute. Such statutes are intended to prevent the operating of a motor vehicle while under the influence of, or intoxicated by, a substance that is known to impair a person’s motor skills.

Some states maintain different classifications for different types of DUIs, such as alcohol, illegal drugs, or over the counter medicine. And, some states include other vehicles such as a bicycle, moped, or golf cart.

DUI may also be known by other names, such as:

Any substance that impairs a person’s ability to safely operate a vehicle could be included in that state’s laws, including legal substances. While alcohol is the most common substance, other substances that can be included in a charge for DUI could be:

  • Illicit or illegal contraband drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, PCP, etc.;
  • Cannabis;
  • Prescription medication, such as painkillers, sleeping meds, muscle relaxers, etc.; and
  • Over the counter medicines, particularly overdoses, including antihistamines such as benadryl.

When a person is tested for intoxication during a DUI stop, the police will likely begin the process on the side of the road, where they stopped the driver. They may ask the driver to step out of their vehicle and perform a field sobriety test. A field sobriety test is a series of actions designed to test a person’s balance and agility. 

Alternatively, the police may utilize a chemical breath test, such as a breathalyzer. These tests measure the concentration of alcohol in the driver’s body. A blood or urine test may be administered at a different location.

What Costs Are Associated With DUIs, and What Factors Cause the Costs to Vary?

Exactly how much a DUI charge will cost is difficult to pinpoint. This is due to the fact that DUI is a state-specific crime. What this means is that each individual state is allowed to determine what punishment they see fit. DUI charges are most commonly referred to as “the $10,000 ride home,” as this is a close reflection of the national average in regards to the cost of the entire ordeal. 

There are a few factors that cause the costs associated with DUI charges to vary. Some of these factors generally include:

    • Fines: Fines are determined by each individual state. They are what the state considers to be an appropriate monetary punishment for breaking the law. Fines are often influenced by the number of offenses a person has committed. An example of this would be how for a first time DUI offender in the state of California, the fines could be as small as $390. Alternatively, the fines could be as high as $1,000. Generally speaking, a first time offense will be less costly, both in time and money, than a repeated offense;
      • Attending such substance abuse classes may serve as a substitute for jail time, in addition to weekend monitoring or house arrest. All of these measures have costs associated with them that the defendant must pay. Additionally, penalties may or may not include costs associated with towing or impounding your vehicle, if needed;
    • Costs and Penalties: Costs and penalties can take many different forms. This could be the court charging for their time spent on your case, as well as any fees that your state spent in order to test and screen you. The court may also order mandatory payments to a victim’s restitution fund, alcohol education fund, and/or mandatory substance abuse class. 
    • Insurance: Motorists are required to carry a valid driver’s insurance, no matter what state they live in. If a driver receives a DUI charge, their insurance may drop them entirely. Additionally, their insurance provider may also raise their premium as they are now more of a risk to insure; or
    • DMV Fees: The DMV, or Department of Motor Vehicles, may suspend a person’s driver’s license when they have been arrested for a DUI. This will come with a reinstatement fee, as well as the possibility of other fees associated with the driver’s vehicle registration.

In addition to these costs, you will most likely have to pay DUI attorney fees. These fees are what it will cost to have an attorney represent you throughout the legal process. Again, it is often difficult to definitively state what these costs may amount to because the numbers will vary by state, as well as by attorney.

Generally speaking, a DUI case lasts for six to twelve months. An average DUI lawyer cost in 2020 would be $1,900 with additional fees resulting in a total cost of $5,000 to $8,000 for the whole process. Some especially serious cases could cost upwards of $10,000. One factor that may affect pricing, other than what was previously mentioned, would be whether the defendant accepts a plea bargain. 

What Goes into Determining Attorney’s Fees?

Attorney’s fees are often well worth the cost in order to have skilled and knowledgeable legal representation. Because of the often deadly nature of driving under the influence of intoxicants, a DUI charge is taken very seriously by the courts. A competent DUI attorney may not always be able to get your case dismissed, but they will often be able to have the sentence reduced. Most criminal defense attorneys will charge either a flat fee, or an hourly fee. 

A flat fee arrangement will cost, on average, between $2,500–$4,000 in attorney’s fees. Generally speaking, flat fees are based on the attorney’s estimation of the amount of time and effort your DUI case will take. This fee arrangement also takes into consideration the likelihood of an agreement, or plea bargain, being reached. 

Experienced DUI attorneys can usually narrow down exactly what kind of work will go into a DUI case. This commonly includes:

  • Appearances;
  • Motions;
  • Preliminary hearings; and
  • A potential trial.

If an attorney is charging a flat fee, it is probable that they have determined that they can negotiate a favorable plea agreement. Doing so would avoid a long, costly trial.

Hourly rates also vary greatly, and are influenced by:

  • The attorney’s current caseload;
  • Their skills and experience; and
  • The attorney’s reputation.

Generally speaking, the average hourly rate is between two and five hundred dollars per hour. If a DUI attorney is charging an hourly rate, it is likely that your case is unique or complex in some sort of way. Hourly rates require a heightened awareness of all the time spent working on a case. 

Due to the fact that this is not necessarily the best use of the attorney’s time, they may require a retainer. This retainer will cover a certain amount of the attorney’s time. Once the retainer is expended, a standard or discounted hourly rate will apply.

Do I Need an Attorney for Help with a DUI Charge?

Although an attorney for a DUI is costly, it is often necessary. When consulting with a DUI attorney, it is important to ask which fee structure they foresee themselves utilizing, and why. Asking for an attorney’s fee structure could help you determine which attorney you consult with is the best fit for you and your case, especially if you are able to consult with several attorneys before choosing one to represent you. 

An experienced and local DUI attorney or a criminal lawyer will be able to file all necessary motions in your case. Additionally, an attorney can also represent you during any necessary court appearances or trials, while working to reduce your sentence if possible.


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