How Drinking and Driving Can Ruin Your Financial Future
It is Friday night and David has just enjoyed an evening out with his friends. They were at the bar and he is about to get into his car and head home. He puts his arms out and takes a couple of steps to test his dexterity and feels like he is okay to drive. After all, he only had a couple of drinks and there is no one on the road this late at night. I’ll be fine,” he says to himself.
What should he do?
Drinking and driving is not only a serious crime, it is also a very costly one. Even if he is lucky enough to not drive into a telephone pole or another car, if he is pulled over the charges can have deep reaching and long lasting financial consequences that can last a lifetime.
Everyone knows that like homework and weekends, alcohol and cars don’t mix. But there is always one idiot that stays up a little too late, and has one too many drinks and thinks that he “feels fine.” Or, someone who thinks that drive a short distance is okay. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 1 in 12 people admit to driving driving drunk in a given year. The FBI also reports that drunk driving results in more than one million arrests or criminal charges each year (and no, Charlie Sheen was not responsible for half of them).
Before you get behind the wheel, it is important to know how a conviction of this crime can affect your finances. Even if you think it is a minor criminal offense, it can charge, it can change your life even if you manage to avoid conviction.
As a disclaimer, if you think that you can get valuable legal advice free from the Internet, you must have started your drinking early today. For legal advice you need a lawyer. No one else, especially people who write blogs about legal advice, know your situation. Get a lawyer. You have been warned!
Every state has made operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicating substances illegal. The acronym DUI stands for “driving under the influence,” and DWI stands for “driving while intoxicated” or “driving while impaired,” and OUI stands for “operating under the influence.” Whew, that was a mouthful.
Even though there are slight differences between these definitions, they are all basically the same for the purposes of this article — you drank too much alcohol or got high and then got behind the wheel of a vehicle.
Many states also include driving while under the influence of prescription or recreational drugs in their legal descriptions of DWI offenses. Having a note from your doctor will not let you put other people at risk. State laws either specify an amount of the controlled substance that can be present in the bloodstream, or they will adopt a zero tolerance rule. Either way, DWI’s can cover a much larger range of influence than just alcohol.
Penalties, Costs & Consequences
It is impossible to say exactly what the cost of a DUI will be for any given case. Even charges within a single state vary widely depending on the circumstances and facts. But it is important to know that your costs will go far beyond attorney’s fees, criminal fines, or lost wages.
Courts in every state can impose fines, require time in jail, impose driving restrictions, confiscate your vehicle (permanently in some states), and require the costly installation of an Ignition Interlock Device to test your BAC before you can start your vehicle.
The cost to get a lawyer to defend your case, can also range from a few thousand dollars to ten’s of thousands.
After being fined by the court, having your vehicle confiscated, paying your attorney and missing work to sit in jail with Seabass and his gang, you will still have additional fees to pay:
- Car Storage or Impoundment Fees: Starting at $30
- Probation Supervision Fees: As much as $1,200
- Towing Fees: Average of $143
- Alcohol Evaluation: $200
- Ignition Interlock Device Installation and Rental: Up to about $1,500
- Community Service Supervision Fees: $80
- Victims Assistance Fund Fee: $78
- Victim Impact Panel Fee: $25
- Victim Compensation Fund Fee: $33
- Brain Injury Fund Fee: $15
- Law Enforcement Assistance Fund Fee: $90
- Alcohol Education or Treatment Class Fee: Up to $1,000
These all add up to about $4300 in what-on-earth-were-you-thinking charges.
Car owners who are convicted of a DUI, can expect their car insurance rates to rise, a lot. Almost every insurance company will consider someone with a DUI an increased risk and increase the premium. The amount differs from state to state but the governement of California estimated that the cost of increased insurance premiums alone can total $40,000 over the course of 13 years, or about $3,075 per year. 10 seconds with a napkin and we can calculate that it is three $20 taxis per week.
Lost Wages & Limited Employment Opportunities
Even without a conviction, you are likely to spend some time in jail that can impede your work and result in lost wages. A conviction may make it legal for your employer to fire you, demote you or take any other adverse action it deems fit. If you require your license for work, it will almost certainly be detrimental to your job and potentially to your entire career. This can be particularly painful if you don’t even have one yet.
With a criminal conviction, many states limit the type of jobs that you can hold, including child care, limited access to educational scholarships or admission to the United States Merchant Marine Academy. No one wants to trust a drunk driver with a battle hardened tank in the most politically sensitive areas of the world.
Medical Expenses, Property Damage, and Wrongful Death
If you were pulled over and your DUI did not involve property damage or running over someone, count yourself lucky. If you were involved in a DUI accident, you can be liable for public damage, or hospital bills and restitution if someone was injured or killed. Even with insurance, you can face paying damages in the millions. So if you are not Donald Trump, then you should consider an alternative way home. If you are Donald Trump then, hi Donald.
When all this is taken into account, it is hard to image that it is worth taking the financial risk to get behind the wheel. Luckily our friend David came to his senses and made the financially wise investment in a taxi home that night. Compared the potential costs, the risk to his life and the lives of anyone else on the road, and the risk of getting caught, it might be the best $30 investment that anyone can make in that situation.
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