A DUI is much more than an expensive traffic offense. In 2020, an estimated 778,910 drivers were arrested for driving under the influence.
DUIs result in a serious legal situation that can be complex and confusing for many. Getting help from a knowledgeable DUI attorney can help you navigate the legal system.
While hiring an attorney to represent you can seem expensive, a reputable DUI lawyer can help reduce your charges or have them dropped completely. This can save you money on not only trial costs, but also some of the lesser-known DUI costs like increased auto insurance rates and DUI class fees.
Below, we dive into estimated DUI lawyer costs as well as miscellaneous fees to give you a better sense of the total cost of a DUI.
Average DUI Lawyer Cost
If you choose to hire a private DUI attorney to represent you, the cost depends on a few factors. These include:
Your geographic location
The lawyer’s experience
Whether the case is settled quickly with a plea or ends up going to trial
Based on conversations with attorneys well-versed in DUI cases and independent research, a DUI lawyer could cost an estimated $2,500 to $5,000. However, these costs can increase significantly if your case goes to trial.
It’s important to note that there are many factors that can increase the cost of a DUI, such as:
Whether you’ve had a prior DUI conviction and how long ago it was
Your blood alcohol content level
Whether you refused a blood or breath test
Whether you resisted arrest
The nature of your driving observed by police officers
Whether there were children in the car
Whether there was an accident involved
Whether you displayed hostility toward law enforcement
Private Attorney vs. Public Defender
Hiring a private DUI attorney is not your only option. Criminal defendants have the right to an attorney. If you can’t afford one, the court will appoint one for you, typically from a public defender’s office.
Some public defender offices may charge a small application fee from clients. For example, Anderson County in South Carolina charges a $40 public defender application fee.
One of the biggest differences between a public defender and private attorney is that a public defender doesn’t handle issues outside the criminal court system, such as challenging a driver’s license suspension or handling car insurance issues.
DUI Lawyer Fee Structures
While hourly rates are common for many areas of law, DUI lawyers often charge a flat fee for their services.
Flat fee: A flat fee structure is one lump sum for all or parts of a DUI case. Unlike an hourly rate, with a flat fee you know exactly how much you’ll pay over the course of your case.
Hourly rate: For hourly rates, the client is charged for each hour of the lawyer’s time spent working on the case. How much you’ll pay with an hourly rate depends on the complexity of your case and the legal strategies used to prepare your defense.
As you search for a DUI attorney, remember that legal fees are negotiable and you should ensure your entire fee arrangement is detailed in writing before you begin working with any DUI lawyer.
“A person should ask what experience the attorney has with DUI cases and how many DUIs they have handled,” says Dr. Louis Patino, personal injury lawyer and founder of the Patino Law Firm in Texas. “It can also be worth asking about reduced attorney fees — some firms offer reduced rates for veterans or people with low incomes.”
First-Offense DUI Cost
In most states, a first-offense DUI is classified as a misdemeanor.
The consequences for a first-time offense varies depending on your state, but can include jail time, an ignition interlock device installed within your vehicle, attending drug and alcohol classes, and a suspended license.
According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a first-time DUI can cost $10,000 or more in fines and legal fees. While that figure may seem steep, drivers with multiple DUI convictions can expect a higher overall cost.
It’s important to note that going to trial will likely increase the total cost of any DUI case, whether it’s a first offense or not.
A DUI lawyer may recommend you take your case to trial for a few reasons, including:
If your defense has a strong case and strong likelihood of winning
If the plea agreement cannot be accepted (this is common if the defendant could lose their professional license)
Additional DUI Costs
Aside from paying an attorney, there are additional DUI costs to consider.
DUIs come with a set fine, and that amount differs depending on your state’s DUI laws. For example, a first-time offense in Pennsylvania will result in a $300 fine while a first-time offense in Florida will result in a $500 to $1,000 fine.
The severity of your case also impacts the amount of money you’ll pay in DUI fines. Driving with minors while intoxicated or having an excessive BAC level can result in an increased fine.
When a person is arrested and charged with a DUI, it’s common for a judge to set a certain bail amount that must be paid in order for the driver to be released from jail. The bail amount is often influenced by your criminal history and the bonding schedule set by the court system where you were arrested.
The bail amount set by a judge can vary from court to court, but can range from $100 to $2,500. It’s worth noting that bail can be higher for a second DUI offense. If the DUI is a felony case that involves an accident resulting in serious injury or death, the bail amount is often set much higher than a first offense.
Many states require convicted DUI offenders to take specialized classes as part of their sentencing.
These classes focus on:
The effect alcohol and drugs can have on driving safety
The legal and personal consequences of a DUI
How to avoid a future DUI charge
The DUI class requirements vary from person to person based on the case details and whether or not they're a repeat DUI offender.
Courts give an offender a set amount of time to complete their classes and fulfill the terms of their sentence. The time frame can range from a few hours to several months.
The cost of these classes are the responsibility of the DUI offender. To give you an idea of what these classes can cost, here are the Substance Awareness Traffic Offender Program fees in Missouri:
Offender education program (10 hours): $200
Weekend intervention program (20 hours): $481.16
Clinical intervention program (50 hours): $1,083.43
Serious and repeat offender program (75 hours in no less than 90 days): $1,522.50
Many programs require income documentation to assess whether you’re eligible for financial assistance. If you qualify, you may be able to pay over an extended payment schedule or pay a lower fee.
ADUI can result in a suspended license. The cost to reinstate your license varies state by state, with fees ranging from $25 to hundreds of dollars.
Towing and Impound
If you’re arrested for a DUI, your car may be towed and stored until you can retrieve it. These costs are your responsibility.
Tow fees are often regulated by cities, which can be lower than the maximum amount allowed under state law. To give you an idea of how much tow fees could cost, here are the maximum tow fees in Texas:
Light-duty tows (passenger cars or small trucks): $255
Medium-duty tows (SUVs, large trucks, motorhomes, RVs): $357
In addition to the towing cost, you’re also responsible for the daily cost of storing your car. This fee ranges by location and how long your car sits in the vehicle storage facility.
Ignition Interlock Devices
An ignition interlock device (IID) is a mini breathalyzer tool that is installed onto the dashboard of a car. Before starting the car, the driver must blow into the device and provide an alcohol-free breath sample. If alcohol is detected, the car will not start.
In some states, an IID is required as part of a DUI sentence. The driver is responsible for paying for the installation, cost of the device, and any ongoing monthly fees for calibration and maintenance.
How long you’re required to use an IID will depend on your sentence. Typically, a first-time DUI offense requires at least six months of IID use.
If you receive a DUI, your car insurance company may choose to drop your coverage entirely. Alternatively, your insurer might increase your insurance premiums because they see you as a high-risk driver.
According to a 2022 Forbes Advisor analysis, auto insurance rates increased an average of 74% for drivers with a DUI. That translates to an extra $1,470 per year for auto insurance.
Why Should You Hire a DUI Lawyer?
Choosing whether or not to hire a DUI attorney comes with a variety of benefits. A good DUI lawyer knows the law inside and out and has represented others in your situation many times before.
“A lawyer who focuses on DUIs will be able to thoroughly assess whether the prosecution has problems with its case and can negotiate the best possible outcome for any given case,” says Cody Warner, New York City criminal defense attorney.
DUI attorneys may also have relationships with prosecutors and familiarity with the courts, which can make it easier to strike a favorable plea deal. Hiring a private DUI attorney can also help you reduce or drop your DUI charge.
Having your charge reduced or dropped not only saves you money in court fees, but may also:
Reduce or eliminate jail time
Maintain your ability to keep your license
Ensure a DUI charge or jail time won’t affect current or future job prospects
Reduce the stress caused by all of the above
Find a DUI Attorney Near You
A DUI is a serious matter that can impact your life in countless ways. Hiring a private DUI attorney can help you navigate the complexities of DUI law and save you money in the long run.
Looking for a DUI attorney near you? Expertise.com researches and vets the best attorneys across the U.S. You can find the recommended local attorneys here.
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