If you’re driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the worst thing that can happen is that your choice results in the injury or death of yourself or innocent people. But there are other things to consider when calculating the cost of DUI.
Even if you don’t cause an accident, though, getting caught can cost you up to $20,000, says Larry Kohn, a partner at Kohn & Yager, LLC.
“The cost associated may not only include ,” says Kohn. “It may include higher insurance costs, the cost for alcohol and drug-related programs, and … the cost of losing a potential job opportunity or educational opportunity.”
In other words, a $30 drink tab could ruin your life and even the lives of innocent people.
Breaking down DUI cost
How much your DUI will cost depends on several factors. “Each case is different based on the facts,” says Kohn. For example:
- Was this your first offense or are you a repeat offender?
- Did your decision to drive under the influence result in an accident?
- If so, was anyone injured or killed?
- How did you respond to the police?
- Are there any extenuating circumstances?
The cost of your DUI can also depend on where you live. “Some cities, states, and regions may have higher fees than others,” says Kohn.
The cost associated may not only include attorney fees. It may include higher insurance costs, the cost of alcohol and drug-related programs, and the cost of losing a potential job opportunity or educational opportunity.”
According to OneDUI Insurance, here’s how the costs break down on a national level:
Where you’ll spend most of your money
As you can see, the biggest costs are the attorney fees and the insurance premium increases. And, unfortunately, those are also the costs with the biggest ranges.
“Attorney fees in my market range from about $3,000 to $15,000, depending on the attorney,” says Brian Chase, an Arizona-based DUI lawyer.
“Additionally, those fees often do not include trial or an expert witness. Attorney fees for trial can be anywhere from $500 to $1,500 per day of trial; expert witnesses range from approximately $1,000 to $2,500,” he continues.
According to California Administrative Office of the Courts, a DUI could result in an increase of $40,000 in auto insurance premiums over a 13-year period for teen drivers.
Your insurance premiums, however, can vary wildly depending on where you live and your insurance company. You’ll be required to have an SR-22, also known as a certificate of financial responsibility.
This certificate ensures that you have the proper insurance requirements for your state; an SR-22 is typically in place for three years, but it can vary depending on the state.
When insurance companies see that you have an SR-22 on your file, you’ll automatically be considered a high-risk driver, which is what triggers the insurance rate hike.
How to pay for your DUI
Unless you have $10,000 or more lying around, you might have a hard time paying all of the fees and fines associated with a DUI. Here are four options to consider:
1) Personal loan
Another option to avoid high-interest debt is to apply for a personal loan. There are several lenders that offer low-interest rates to those with good credit, and there are even some lenders that offer decent rates to those with poor or average credit.
Unfortunately, you won’t know exactly what your interest rate will be until you apply and get approved.
But you can start by using SuperMoney’s loan engine to get pre-qualified offers from several lenders at once with a soft credit check, which won’t hurt your credit score. That way, you’ll be able to get some preliminary offers based on your credit report.
Different personal loans come with different rates, fees and requirements, so check out what the best personal loans are to ensure that you choose the best option for you.
You can then review and compare those offers side-by-side (along with other top lenders) to ensure you’re making the right decision.
2) Credit card
Putting money on a high-interest credit card isn’t ideal, so you should avoid it at all costs. Instead, if you have good enough credit, consider applying for a credit card with a 0% APR promotion.
These cards allow you to finance purchases over a period — some up to almost two years — with no interest, giving you time to get rid of the debt without extra costs.
Depending on the card, you may also earn some rewards with the charges you make.
Review and compare credit cards here.
3) Payment plan
“Some attorneys offer monthly payment plans for their fees,” says Chase. “The courts offer payment plans for their fines and fees and charge a one-time, $20 fee to get on a payment plan. As long as payments are made timely, there is no interest.”
Keep in mind, though, that there’s no guarantee that the terms of the payment plan will be favorable. A payment plan with your attorney or the court doesn’t cover all of the costs, either, so you’ll still need to come up with the money for the other costs.
The bottom line
Getting arrested for driving under the influence can cripple you financially, and causing the death or injury of another person can destroy both of your lives. So, the best thing to do is to avoid the risk of a DUI altogether. Hang out with a designated driver, call an Uber, or install a breathalyzer in your car.
If you’ve already committed the act, however, find out exactly how much it’s going to cost you and start searching for ways to pay for it.
Whether you choose a payment plan, family loan, credit card, or personal loan is up to you. The important thing is that you explore all your options to find the best one for your situation.
Ben Luthi is a personal finance writer and a credit cards expert who loves helping consumers and business owners make better financial decisions. His work has been featured in Time, MarketWatch, Yahoo! Finance, U.S. News & World Report, CNBC, Success Magazine, USA Today, The Huffington Post and many more.