DUI stands for driving under the influence, meaning operating a motor vehicle while impaired by the effects of intoxicants such as alcohol. Each state has some version of a DUI statute that prohibits driving while intoxicated or under the influence. Some states classify different types of DUIs, such as alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription drugs, and over the counter drugs (cough syrup, cold medicine, etc).
Additionally, some states even include other motor vehicles, such as bicycles, mopeds, or golf carts. Other names for DUI include DWI (driving while intoxicated), OUI (operating under the influence), and OMVI (operating a motor vehicle intoxicated). Any substance that impairs your ability to safely operate a vehicle might be included in your state’s laws regarding DUI charges.
Some common examples of substances included in a DUI charge include illicit or illegal contraband drugs (heroin, cocaine, etc), marijuana, muscle relaxers, or large doses of 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, which is a series of actions designed to test your balance and agility.
Alternatively, the police may utilize a chemical breath test, such as a breathalyzer, to measure the concentration of alcohol in the driver’s body. A blood or urine test may be administered at a different location.
It can be a bit difficult to determine exactly how much a DUI charge will cost. DUI is a state-specific crime, which means that each state is allowed to determine what punishment they see fit. DUI charges are often 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:
- Fines: Fines are decided by each individual state, and are what the state considers to be an appropriate monetary punishment for breaking the law. Fines are often influenced by the number of offenses. For example, for a first time DUI offender in the state of California, the fines could be as small as $390, and as high as $1,000. Obviously a first time offense will be less costly, both in time and money, than a repeated offense;
- Costs and Penalties: Costs and penalties can come in the form of the court charging for their time spent on your case, as well as any fees your state used to test and screen you. The court may also order mandatory payments to a victim’s restitution fund, alcohol education fund, and mandatory substance abuse class. Attending such substance abuse classes may substitute for jail time, in addition to weekend monitoring or house arrest. All of these measures have costs associated with them. Penalties may or may not include costs associated with towing or impounding your vehicle;
- 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, or raise their premium as they are now more of a risk to insure; and
- DMV Fees: The DMV may suspend a 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.
Attorney’s fees are another cost associated with a DUI charge, and 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. Flat fees are generally based on the attorney’s perception of the amount of time and effort your DUI case will take. It also takes into consideration the likelihood of an agreement being reached.
Experienced DUI attorneys have been able to narrow down exactly what kind of work will go into a DUI case, including appearances, motions, preliminary hearings, and a potential trial. If an attorney is charging a flat fee, it is likely that they have determined that they can negotiate a favorable plea agreement, and avoid a long, costly trial.
Hourly rates also vary greatly, and are influenced by the attorney’s caseload, skills, experience, and reputation. 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 keeping tabs on all the time spent working on a case.
Because 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, and once expended, a standard or discounted hourly rate will apply.
As previously mentioned, an attorney for a DUI is costly, but often necessary. When consulting with a DUI attorney, you should ask which fee structure they use, and why, as this could help you determine which attorney you consult with is the best fit for you and your case.
Additionally, a DUI attorney, or criminal defense attorney, will be able to file all necessary motions in your case, as well as represent you during any necessary court appearances or trials.