Wrestling star Jimmy Uso knows a thing or two about the costs of a DUI.
The six-time WWE tag team champion was recently arrested on suspicion of DUI – for the second time in the past two years.
According to Forbes, Uso now has five DUI arrests dating back to 2011. That’s not a record any competitor wants to break.
Uso has undoubtedly absorbed tens of thousands of dollars in DUI fines, legal fees, increased insurance premiums, and other DUI-related costs. He’s also facing a publicity nightmare that could affect his ability to retain sponsors, a key source of income for any athlete.
Even without sponsors to worry about, a DUI is incredibly destructive financially. Costs arising from a first-offense DUI can total $5,000 to $15,000. And the second, third, and fourth offenses get progressively more expensive.
The costs of a DUI
The table below outlines the range of costs you may incur from a DUI. You’ll see that the costs can vary quite a bit – I’ll explain why in the next section below.
|Cost type||Description||Low estimate||High estimate|
|Towing and impound fees||The costs associated with towing your car and holding it in an impound lot.||$100||$1,200|
|Attorney fees||This range assumes you will not take your case to trial. You can get a public defender if you cannot afford an attorney.||$1,500||$5,000|
|Court-imposed fines||DUI fines vary by state and by severity of the charge.||$150||$1,800|
|Other court fees||The court may bill you for your jailtime, sentencing, and probation.||$310||$1,750|
|Drug testing fees||The court may ask you to undergo random or scheduled alcohol or drug screenings, at your expense.||$100||$500|
|Alcohol education classes||You will likely be required to attend alcohol abuse training, at your expense.||$1,000||$3,000|
|Ignition interlock device||A court-ordered monitor that requires a breath sample before you start your car.||$500||$1,500|
|Alcohol monitor ankle bracelet||The courts may ask repeat offenders to wear an ankle bracelet. The cost is $500 monthly.||$0||$6,000|
|DMV fees||A DUI conviction normally results in a suspended license. Your DMV will charge you to reinstate it.||$20||$200|
|Transportation fees||Fees for public transport, Uber, or Lyft to take you to work while your license is suspended.||$100||$1,000|
|Increased insurance costs||Your insurance premiums will increase after a DUI. The higher rates can last three years or more.||$1,000||$10,000|
Table data source: Alcohol.org and U.S. News and World Report.
What about bail?
Bail costs require a more thorough explanation.
First, a definition: bail is a fee you pay to get out of jail. The money is returned after you appear for all of your court proceedings.
How much is bail for a DUI?
Bail after a DUI offense can range from $0 to $30,000. If your bail amount is greater than zero, you have two options:
- You can pay for it yourself.
- You can ask a bail bond agency to cover it for you.
If you go with a bail bond agency, the agency will charge you for that service, usually 10% of your bail amount. That amount is not returned to you, even after you appear for all of your required court dates.
So, what does it mean to “post bond”?
When you “post bond,” the courts refund your bail to your bond agency – assuming you show up for your court dates.
If you skip out on court, the agency may send a “bounty hunter” after you. If you want to see what that entails, I recommend hopping on over to A&E’s website to watch full episodes of Dog the Bounty Hunter.
9 factors that influence your DUI costs
- The extent of bodily injury or property damage. If you hit someone or something, you may face civil lawsuits plus insurance deductibles to repair your own vehicle. As well, the courts may charge you with a felony DUI vs. the less severe misdemeanor charge. A felony comes with higher bail amounts and steeper penalties. To give you an example, a woman accused of DUI manslaughter in Florida recently had her bail set at $30,000.
- Whether there was a child in the car with you. Driving under the influence with a child in the car exposes you to child endangerment charges on top of the DUI charges. You can expect extra legal fees and higher penalties.
- Your driving record before the DUI. If you have a history of non-DUI driving infractions, you’ll face higher penalties. If you have prior DUI convictions, your fees will be higher, you could spend more time in jail, and you may have to wear an alcohol monitor ankle bracelet at your own expense.
- Your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Generally, the higher your BAC, the more severe the charge and the higher the penalties.
- Where you live. Minimum and maximum punishments for DUI convictions are set by your state. Nolo reports that in Arizona, first-time offenders spend 10 to 90 days in jail. The Grand Canyon state also gives you an automatic felony charge on your third DUI offense within seven years. That compares to Washington, where the minimum jail sentence on a first offense is only one day. But if you have a child in the car, Washington courts can add up to 10 days to your jail sentence and up to $5,000 to your fines.
- Your age. Teen drivers normally don’t do jail time. However, many states have what’s called a “zero-tolerance DUI” for teens. This is a DUI conviction that results from very low BAC levels, from trace amounts of alcohol to 0.02%. Teen DUI offenders can expect their insurance premiums to double or triple.
- Whether you were a commercial driver in a commercial vehicle at the time of the infraction. If you are working while driving under the influence, you’ll have another set of problems to manage. You will lose your commercial license and, possibly, your job.
- Whether you miss work due to jail time or injuries. About half of U.S. states have no minimum jail sentence for first-time DUI offenders. But Nebraska, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Arizona carry minimum jail sentences of 7 to 10 days.
- Whether you go to trial. California Attorney Greg Hill & Associates estimates that an attorney will charge an extra $3,500 to $15,000 to represent you in a trial. Your case might also require the services of a private investigator which can be $1,000 or more. These costs are also not included in the chart above.
The largest DUI costs
The biggest cost categories you’re likely to see after a DUI are your attorney’s fees, court fees and penalties, and increased insurance premiums.
Here’s a closer look at each one.
If this is your first DUI offense and the case is straightforward, your attorney fees could be around $1,500.
If it’s not your first offense, or if there are complexities to the case, you could pay two or three times more. And, as noted, going to trial will be vastly more expensive than pleading guilty.
Why do you need a lawyer if you plead guilty?
Wondering why you need a lawyer if you end up pleading guilty? That’s a fair question.
The attorney’s job is first to explore the possibility of having your charges dropped. If that’s not an option – it often isn’t – then the attorney will help you negotiate a reduced sentence and lower fees.
How do DUI lawyers charge?
Some DUI lawyers charge by the hour and others have a flat rate for their services. With either billing structure, you will normally prepay for services.
The hourly attorney will apply charges to your prepayment until the funds are used up. If the case drags on, you’ll get another bill to add more funds to your account. Once the case is closed, the attorney will refund your leftover account balance.
The court fines associated with a DUI depend on where you live and the severity of the incident. For example (as reported by Nolo):
- In Alabama, first-time DUI offenders pay $600 to $2,100 in fines. On the third conviction, DUI offenders can pay up to $10,100 in fines. Alabama courts can double these fines if the driver’s BAC was 0.15% or greater, or if there was a passenger under 14 years old in the car.
- In Massachusetts, fines at the first offense range from $500 to $5,000. Fines for third-time offenders can range up to $15,000 as reported. Massachusetts can add to these fees if there were children in the car with the impaired driver.
- First-time DUI offenders in California are assessed fines of $390 to $1,000. On the third offense, the maximum fine is only $1,800.
Your auto insurance premiums will rise after a DUI. And, since your premiums will remain elevated for several years, the total cost to you can stretch up into the thousands.
It’s tough to nail down how much your premiums will increase following a DUI because there are several variables, including:
- Your driving record before the DUI incident.
- Where you live.
- How long the DUI stays on your driving record in your state.
- Whether you have full or minimum insurance coverage.
Progressive Insurance reports an average premium increase of 13% after a single DUI, but other studies show much higher increases. A study from Coverage.com, for example, measures average premium increases ranging from 24% in New York to 246% in North Carolina.
The nationwide average premium increase based on the Coverage data is about 80%. If you’re paying $1,200 a year for insurance pre-DUI, an 80% bump raises your premium to $2,160. Expect a bigger jump for severe DUI incidents that caused bodily injury or property damage.
The DUI conviction will stay on your driving record for five years to life, depending on where you live. Insurers are likely to keep your rate elevated for three to seven years.
Total costs related to a first-time DUI offense are usually about $5,000. But those costs can quickly spiral up to $10,000 or $15,000 on a second or third DUI conviction.
Other circumstances that push DUI costs higher are:
- A very high BAC level.
- The presence of a child while you are driving impaired.
- A collision with someone or something.
The worst-case scenario is if you cause an accident while impaired and someone is injured or killed. You could be hit with a civil lawsuit and, possibly, criminal charges such as DUI manslaughter.
A DUI conviction can be a very expensive hassle – or it can be financially and emotionally devastating. If you’re already facing DUI charges, accept the consequences and turn your attention to the future.
Your best course of action is to avoid another DUI offense. Whether you buy yourself a breathalyzer or designate a friend to take your keys, find a way to ban yourself from driving while impaired. You don’t want to imitate a certain wrestling champion who’s made a habit of drinking and driving.