If the possibility of causing an accident isn’t enough, New Year’s Eve revelers who are tempted to drive after drinking might want to think about the many ways a DUI will impact their bank account.
The fine alone for a first-time DUI runs about $1,000, depending on the jurisdiction, but that’s just a starting point. There are numerous state add-ons to the fine for things such as peace officer training, a brain and spinal injury fund and victim assistance.
A DUI also mandates 12 months probation, which carries a monthly fee. In Bibb County that’s $30 per month, but it can be $50 or more in other jurisdictions.
Also, DUI offenders can expect their licenses to be suspended for at least four months. They can get a restricted license to drive to work for $25, but to get their license reinstated, it will cost $210.
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A DUI charge also means mandatory risk-reduction training, which costs $292. Many DUI offenders hire an attorney, and that can cost $1,000 or more. The end result is that the costs of a DUI can run more than $3,000.
“Even a first-time DUI gets very expensive,” said Cindy Adams, chief assistant solicitor general for Bibb County State Court.
All first-time offenders must spend 24 hours in jail, she said. Some may avoid jail upon arrest by bonding out, but once they are convicted they still have to spend a night in jail. Those who go to jail when they are arrested can get credit for that when convicted. Offenders must also serve 40 hours of community service.
After getting a DUI, an offender’s problems can easily snowball. For many people, having a suspended license is more disruptive to their lives than the monetary costs, Adams said. It’s not unusual for offenders to end up back in court with another charge of driving with a suspended license, which means even more costs and more time without a license.
Then, if they get a second DUI, their problems can become far worse. In addition to higher fines, more jail time and more probation, a second DUI carries a mandatory one-year license suspension with no opportunity for limited license. A second DUI also requires a clinical evaluation.
For those who hold a commercial driver’s license, a DUI can mean the unemployment line.
Bill Childs, warrant officer for Warner Robins Municipal Court, said New Year’s Eve isn’t necessarily the biggest day of the year for DUIs. The Fourth of July and Halloween are also common times when people are caught driving drunk.
As a former patrol officer, he wrote many DUI citations. The most common reason offenders gave for getting behind the wheel, he said, is that they felt fine.
So, short of having a breathalyzer handy with a qualified person to give a test, how is a person supposed to know whether they are over the threshold for a DUI?
“Just don’t even take a chance,” he said. “Spend the night. Sleep in the car. It’s cheaper than a DUI.”
Even if drivers aren’t over the threshold, drinking and driving can still bring trouble, Childs said. If an officer smells alcohol, then the driver is going to subjected to a roadside test. Alcohol also has a tendency to make people belligerent, he said, which can lead to trouble if they get pulled over.
Adams said a DUI is different from any other crime state court handles.
“DUI is the one crime that spreads across all socioeconomic classes,” she said. “I have everyone in here from professionals to your plain career criminals.”
She also said the best rule of thumb is to not mix drinking and driving at all, even if people think they are OK to drive.
“A lot of people think you have to be falling down drunk, but you don’t,” she said.
She likes the advice one attorney she knows gives his clients.
“There’s not a cab ride to anywhere in Bibb County that’s more expensive than a DUI.”