How Much Does a DWI Cost?
There are many different costs associated with getting arrested for a DWI or DUI charges. The costs may include bail fee, vehicle impound, drug tests, substance abuse evaluation, treatment, community service, rehabilitative classes, Driver Improvement Program, MADD victim impact panel fee, bond supervision fees, diversion programs, court costs, restitution, fines, probation fees, costs of prosecution, ignition interlock, home alcohol monitor, ankle monitor, DMV license reinstatement fees, vehicle forfeiture fees, insurance premiums increase, SR-22 insurance certificate, attorney fees and more.
Let’s take a look at some of these fees and break down what costs you may be looking at if you just got arrested for a DWI. Keep in mind, every case, jurisdiction, judge, and defendant’s circumstances are different which leads to a different mix of fees. Not every DWI defendant will need to pay the all of fees below. Below are examples of the possible fees.
Bail for DWI
If you are arrested and booked for DWI charges, the court may require a bond to be posted for you to be released from jail. The bond ensures that you’ll appear at your court dates. The theory is that if someone close to you, such as friend or family, are willing to post bond for you, then you will be more willing to attend your court appearances rather than if no bond was posted at all.
After the judge sets the bail amount, a person can go to the jail and post a cash bond with the sheriff in the full amount of the bail or hire a bail bondsman and pay him 12%. If the surety pays a cash bond, he or she will get it all back after the defendant goes to court. If the surety hires a bail bondsman for the DWI, he or she will not get the 12% back. That is the bondsman’s fee for putting up the entire amount.
For instance, if your bail was $2500 for DWI first offense, and your family put up that entire amount as a cash bond, they are now $2500 in the hole. They’ll get it back if you attend all of your court appearances. Bail can be much higher if you’ve been charged with felony DWI or arrested for additional charges such as vehicular injuring, vehicular homicide, hit and run, reckless driving, drug possession, resisting an officer, etc.
PRO TIP: Read our article on DWI questions and answers!
If you are arrested for DWI and the officer doesn’t leave your car in a parking lot or doesn’t call a friend or family member to retrieve the vehicle, then it will be impounded. Impound fees are charged by the day. These can get very expensive. Impound fees can end up being hundreds of dollars depending how long it takes to get your car out.
If the police officer alleged that you were under the influence of drugs, the judge may order that you complete random drug screens while the case is pending. Depending on the jurisdiction, the drug screens can cost $25-100 per screen. During the course of the case, you might do 6-10 screens. This can add up. Fortunately, the cost of the screens is only due at or after the screen takes place.
Substance Abuse Evaluation
You may be required or advised by your lawyer to take a substance abuse evaluation and perform any recommended treatment. The idea is that if you got pulled over for DWI, then you might have a substance abuse issue that needs to be addressed. The evaluation can cost a few hundred dollars at least, depending who does it. The evaluation can be done by a private substance abuse counselor, a publicly-funded counselor, or a counselor in an inpatient facility.
If the counselor that performed the substance abuse evaluation believes that you need treatment for a substance abuse issue, he/she may recommend it. You’ll need to comply with the recommendation. Similar to the evaluation, the treatment can be completed with a private substance abuse counselor, a publicly-funded counselor, or a counselor in an inpatient facility. This decision may have to do with if you decided to use medical insurance to help pay for the treatment or not. The cost of treatment varies based on where you get it and if you do inpatient or outpatient treatment. Inpatient treatment is much more expensive that outpatient treatment which can include meetings with the counselor and group meetings.
Arguably, community service shouldn’t cost you anything because it is your service that is given rather than money. However, some judges may allow you to buy your way out of community service by paying more fines. This is very rare and only seen in rural communities probably because their court system needs the money more than it needs DWI defendants saying they did community service. In indirect cost of community service is the time it takes for you to do it. Time is money. If you could be making money at your job instead of doing community service, then that is the financial cost of community service. For instance, if you could wait tables that day and make $300, but instead you’re doing community service for a DWI, then community service just cost you $300.
Your substance abuse counselor may advise you to take online classes such as Alcohol Awareness or Drug and Alcohol Dependency 101. These classes are not free. They can vary from $25-200 each.
Driver Improvement Program
You can bet you’ll need to take a driver improvement program. This can be in-person or online, depending on what the judge allows. Set aside a couple hundred dollars for this. These programs can be one-day classes or spread out over multiple meetings since the duration and extent of the programs differ.
MADD Victim Impact Panel
According to MADD, “The purpose of the Victim Impact Panel (VIP) program is to help drunk and drugged driving offenders to recognize and internalize the lasting and long-term effects of substance-impaired driving.” Many judges and prosecutors will require the defendant complete one session which costs $75.
Bond Supervision Fees
Some judges require DWI arrestees to be on bond supervision while they are bonded out of jail and the case is pending. The judge will order that you report to a specific bond supervisor who will monitor you and make sure you are following the terms and conditions of bond. It’s not free. The bond supervisors are paid a monthly fee by you and if you don’t pay it, that is considered violating the terms of probation. The fee can range from $50-100/month.
Depending on the circumstance of your case, you may end up completing a diversion program with the DA’s Office. The completion of this program results in a dismissal of the charges. The DA’s Office must agree with your attorney to allow you to enter the program. If you and your attorney determine that is what’s best for you, then you’ll enroll. These programs vary in cost and conditions of completion because every parish and city have their own DA or City Prosecutor who determines the requirements for the diversion program and if they even have one. These pretrial intervention or diversion programs can cost $1000-3000 to complete.
Court systems are always trying to figure out how to divert money from defendants into the court system so that the system can operate. Courthouses and judicial districts require a lot of staff and overhead to function day-to-day. Judges routinely order defendants to pay court costs when they are convicted. Paying court costs can even be part of a negotiated deal if the case is dismissed or the charges reduced. Court costs for a DWI can be a $200-300 or more.
Restitution is an amount of money ordered by a judge for the defendant to pay to the alleged victim in a criminal case. The judge can order restitution if the defendant is convicted of DWI if there was damage to someone else’s property. For instance, if the defendant got into a two-car accident at the time of the DUI arrest, the defendant is likely liable for the damages to the victim’s car. If insurance covers the claim, there may still be an outstanding deductible that the victim was required to pay. The judge could order the defendant to pay that amount back to the victim as restitution. Another example is when the defendant runs off the road while drunk driving and hits a mailbox. The cost to repair or replace the mailbox can be paid back in restitution.
If the defendant is convicted of DUI, he/she may be ordered to pay a fine as stipulated in the statute. Judges have some latitude when determining the fine. There is usually a range that the judge must stay within.
- DUI First Offense Fines: $300 to $1,000 fine ($750 to $1,000 if BAC 0.20 or more)
- DUI First Second Fines: Offenders may be ordered to pay a fine of about $750 to over $1,000
- DUI First Third Fines: An offender would be ordered by the court to pay a fine of up to $2,000.
- DUI First Fourth Fines: An offender would be ordered by the court to pay a fine of up to $5,000.
If you are convicted of DWI, the judge can place you on probation for up to two years. He will order you to complete various conditions of probation including paying monthly probation fees. Probation fees offset the cost of having to implement and operate a probation office. Depending on the jurisdiction, the probation fees can range from $50-100/month.
Costs of Prosecution
Costs of prosecution are costs burdened by the prosecutor’s office. Your attorney may negotiate a deal with the DA or city prosecutor in which you’ll agree to pay costs of prosecution in a specific amount to help offset the work the prosecutor had to do on your case. In exchange, the charges may get reduced or dismissed. Prosecutor’s offices vary as if they offer these resolutions and for the types of cases they’ll allow it.
Ignition Interlock Device
Most DWI cases involve the necessity of having to install the ignition interlock device in your vehicle. An ignition interlock device is a machine installed in your vehicle by a certified installer. You have to blow in the machine for the vehicle to start. The machine tests your blood alcohol content to see if you are clean. If you are dirty, the ignition won’t start. The machine can even be set up to report to your probation officer that you blew dirty.
Judges and the DMV can require that it be installed to drive legally. The ignition interlock device (IID) can cost around $200 for installation and approximately $75-80/month to monitor the device. Depending on your DWI, you may be required to keep it installed for 90 days up to 4 years. This can end up being hefty cost throughout the DWI case.
Home Alcohol Monitor
Sometimes, DWI defendants are required to install and maintain a home alcohol monitoring device. Basically, it is a machine that you would blow into randomly or at specified times to test for alcohol in your blood. It is similar to an ignition interlock device but instead of being in a vehicle, it is in your home. These machines are very expensive to set up and maintain. The monthly fee is usually around $300.
Ankle monitors can be ordered by the judge as a condition of bond. These are usually reserved for cases when the judge is nervous about the defendant drinking again. Ankle monitors are sometimes required by prosecutor’s offices as a condition to completing their diversion program. These monitors can be costly depending on how long you are required to have them Budget around $50/month for a DWI ankle monitor.
DMV License Reinstatement Fees
If your driver’s license is suspended as a result of a DWI, you’ll need to reinstate the license once you are eligible to do so. The fees vary based on your circumstances but are typically around $125-150. They keep going up every year.
Vehicle Forfeiture Fees
If you are arrested for felony DWI in Louisiana, the judge can order that the vehicle you were driving be forfeited. This could potentially be financially destructive to you as you could lose thousands of dollars. If you were arrested for misdemeanor DWI along with drug distribution or possession with intent to distribute drugs, the judge could order the forfeiture upon motion of the District Attorney. The argument by the prosecutor would be that the car was either bought with proceeds from the illegal sale of drugs and/or the vehicle was used in furtherance of illegal drug-dealing activity. The lesson here is that if you are going to sell drugs, don’t drink and drive. But, don’t sell drugs either.
Insurance Premiums Increase
If you get arrested for DUI or DWI, there is a good chance your auto insurance premiums will increase. Insurance companies will view you as more of a liability so the increase in premium offsets the risk of potential claims they’ll have to pay. Every insurance company is different as to how they handle a DWI arrest and/or conviction. Some insurers may decide to cancel the policy altogether. Some may not even increase the premiums if you are a valued customer.
SR-22 Insurance Certificate
SR-22 insurance is different than a regular auto insurance policy. The SR-22 insurance is a certificate given by your insurance company that ensures to the DMV that you are covered. Basically, it is additional insurance. You’ll need this to get a hardship license with the DMV. The cost of SR-22 insurance can be around $200-1000.
The attorney fees for a misdemeanor DWI can vary from around $3500-6500 for a competent and experienced DWI lawyer. If you go cheaper than that, you may be hiring a lawyer who is just trying to get experience on your case.
Add it Up
After the completion of probation, ignition interlock device, classes, attorney fees, etc., the total estimated cost of a DWI charge in Louisiana is $7500-10,000. The cost to having a DWI charge is high because the cases may extend over a long period of time and require many fees that accrue significantly over time. A defense lawyer may try to minimize the financial cost by negotiating terms with the prosecutor and judge when possible.
DWI Lawyer in Louisiana
The Barkemeyer Law Firm is a boutique law firm established to defend clients with DWI and criminal charges in all areas of Louisiana. We know how to protect our client’s criminal record and minimize the damage after a DWI arrest. Feel free to give us a call if you need to hire a DWI lawyer or schedule a consultation if you just want to get some advice.