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What is the Overall Cost of a DUI?

If you have been arrested for a DUI, it gets expensive fast. Not only does a DUI implicate legal fees from your case, but it incurs cost and complications at the DMV, you will need to have a DMV hearing, and, if you have kids, your DUI could affect your child custody. According to Fight DUI Charges, a first offense DUI averages $16,000 in overall costs. This cost varies depending on the particulars of your case, including 

  • Bail 
  • Criminal fines ordered by the judge
  • Administrative costs by the courts and the DMV
  • Damages (money) paid to victims of your actions, if any 
  • Cost of impounding your vehicle 
  • Deterrent programs such as DUI School 

According to DMV Defenders, the average cost for being arrested for DUI in California is approximately $10,000 to $12,000. Factors that can increase this cost significantly include a traffic collision (especially if someone else was harmed), multiple offenses, an excessively high blood alcohol content, or a probation violation. 

This article will go over the cost of a DUI, ways to minimize your DUI in court, and how the charges can affect your child custody. 

What are the Costs of A First Offense DUI?

Since the police can’t let you just get in your car and drive home after you’ve been arrested for a DUI, you have to pay bail to get released from custody and to recover your vehicle before you even go to court. 


As soon as you’re being processed by the system, you’re paying for it. From mugshots to fingerprints to the paperwork filed on your case’s behalf, the bill is on you. 


After you get arrested for a first-offense DUI, you will have to post bail. This ranges from hundreds to thousands of dollars. If paid, it will be “returned” once you show up on time in court...minus the fees. There’s a lot of fees. 

If you’ve been arrested for a DUI, and assuming your case is a misdemeanor with a bail up to $5,000, the police or jail facility where you are taken have the discretion to “cite release” you once you’re sober. Assume the facility you are being held by will want a cut of the bail to cover costs, and expect to pay at least 10% of $5000 for your release, which is $500. This cost increases significantly if this is not your first offense, there are multiple charges, you’re on probation, or you injured someone else. Many first-time DUI offenses do not require bail, but if yours does, you may not be able to afford it and need to take out a bail bond (loan). You could be ordered to pay up to 10% down on a bail bond. 

Towing and Storage

You will need to pay for the tow, storage, and release of your vehicle. Not surprisingly, many cities get notable revenue from towing cars after a driver is arrested for DUI. Generally, you will owe a release fee of approximately $50 to the arresting police agency. In addition, you have to pay the towing company a fee for towing and storing your car. The longer your car is in storage, the more it will cost to get it out, but the average is $150. So expect a total of about $200 just to get your car back. 

So far, between getting yourself and your car released, you owe $700. 

Legal Fees

There are countless legal fees that could be incurred during your DUI process. Many of these come from the DMV, and are specific to the circumstances of your case. These costs are separate from the cost of retaining an attorney. 

Attorney Fees

Attorney fees vary depending on the experience and type of attorney (public or private). 

On the lowest end of the price spectrum are public defenders, the types of lawyers assigned to your case if you can’t afford a private one. Though seemingly the most affordable option because you won’t owe a public defender retainer fees, note that these attorneys generally don’t have the time or inclination to invest a lot of energy in your case. In the system they work for, they make almost all their money from paying clients, not publicly assigned ones, and most public defenders give effort proportionate to anticipated compensation. Whether you place the blame on the system or its constituents, you should know how you’ll be treated. If you can afford to pay for a better attorney and get a better job done on your case, it could end up saving you lots of money and trouble in the long term. 

An inexperienced or younger attorney may cost as little as $500 to represent a first time DUI. Experienced attorneys and attorneys who specialize in DUI defense cost an average of $3500 and up to $7500 for a first time DUI defense, according to the DMV Defense Experts. 

Court Costs 

A first-time DUI offense incurs a fine of $390. However, this is only the baseline, on top of which are nearly always added “Penalty Assessemnents.” According to the DMV Defense Experts, the average cost of the courts is $1500. 

According to Los Angeles DUI Attorneys, fines for most DUI cases range between the minimum $390 and $1000. 

Court penalties, or “administrative assessments” are set by local government for the most part. This could include a toxicology expert who testifies about the BAC during your arrest or other costs born by the local court while handling your case. In theory, this system is meant to make you offset the expenses incurred by your offense. In practice, you are being made to pay far more than state statute allows. 

Ignition on Interlock Device (IID) 

In California, four counties mandate the installation of an IID after a first offense DUI: Los Angeles, Sacramento, Alameda and Tulare. These devices are meant to prevent you from DUI again, allowing your car to start only if your BAC is below a set limit. Installation costs $100 and each subsequent month costs an average of $80 for operation. Total, the average cost of an IID is $500. 

DUI School 

All DUI cases in California require first-time DUI offenders to attend DUI School. The average cost is $500 assuming the judge does not order longer terms due to the circumstances of your case. 

Reinstatement Fees 

Your license will be suspended as part of your DUI, according to Los Angeles DUI Attorneys. You will owe the DMV a reinstatement fee of $125 once your suspension is up. Once convicted, you will also owe the court a $55 reinstatement fee. 


Whether convicted of a “wet reckless” or a DUI, your insurance costs will go up as you are required to maintain “SR-22” or “high risk” insurance on your car for at least three years. The same is required if your license is suspended after a DMV APS Hearing. This insurance is on top of whatever your insurance policy already is, which also increases its own rates after a DUI. Most insurance premiums increase an average of $84 a month, according to Los Angeles DUI Attorney, and dramatically higher for drivers under 21. So add that to the “high risk” insurance required for three years. The average cost for this additional high risk insurance is $1500 per year. For the three required years, this totals $4500. 

Victim Restitution Fund

Anyone convicted of DUI must pay money into the state’s Restitution Fund, even if your DUI didn’t hurt anyone. This fund provides money to the victims of crime.

H Law Group Online

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