Arrested for DWI? Here's what a conviction could cost financially

A Florida traffic violations defense lawyer from recently estimated that a drunk driving conviction in that state typically costs the driver some $15,000 in initial costs and fines, car insurance increases, driver's license reinstatement fees, DWI classes, attorney's fees and other costs such as the installation and monthly subscription cost for an ignition interlock device. An online car insurance aggregator found similar results, estimating the nationwide average financial cost of a DWI conviction at $10,000.

While the primary impact of drunk driving may be tragedy, the financial costs of a conviction are also quite high. While that Florida traffic lawyers was primarily talking about his own state, most of the same costs apply to DWI convictions in New York, as well.

So, what makes a DWI conviction so expensive, even if it doesn't result in injury or death? Here are some of the factors:

Fines and court costs: In New York, a first-offense, misdemeanor conviction for DWI or DWAI-Drugs with a middle-range blood alcohol content is punishable by a $500 to $1,000 fine. In addition, New York requires a “conviction surcharge” of $140 for misdemeanors, along with a crime victims’ assistance fee of $20. You’ll also have to pay the DMV a $250 annual driver responsibility assessment for three years. Depending on the circumstances, a Town and Village Court fee or other cost could apply.

License and monitoring costs: Additionally, your driver’s license will be revoked -- and when you qualify to get it back, you will be required to pay a $100 reinstatement fee. You will be required to install, at your own expense, an ignition interlock device on every car you own or operate and pay for their monitoring. For a single car, that installation and monitoring costs an estimated $800.You will likely also be on the hook for a mandatory substance abuse assessment and DWI classes.

Insurance increases: On average nationwide, a DWI conviction increases your insurance rate by 19 percent, even in states like New York that don’t require special SR22 Insurance for people convicted of drunk driving.

That list doesn’t even take into account your job-related costs. Commercial drivers convicted of a single DWI can have their CDLs suspended for years. Other workers can also lose their jobs over a DWI. Even if you don’t, you could miss work and lose income as you deal with the mandatory classes, court dates and bureaucratic issues.

The fact is, a DWI conviction is a big deal even if it doesn’t involve an accident. You need to know the full cost of a conviction before you make any decisions. If you’re ever arrested for DWI, talk to an attorney as soon as possible.

Source: Money Talks News, "The Extremely High Cost of a DUI," Craig Donofrio, May 31, 2013

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