California’s DUI laws can be complex and confusing. In this section, our attorneys break down the rules and explain the process.
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Between fines, court costs, DUI school, DMV fees, increased car insurance premiums, and attorney fees (if you hire a private attorney), a DUI in California can run you from $8000.00 to $25,000.00 out of pocket. But if you successfully fight the charge and avoid a conviction, the net cost will likely be much lower.
In general, the costs for a first-time DUI breakdown as follows:
|Type of Cost||Amount|
|Fines||Up to $1,000|
|Attorney fees||$3,000 – $15,000 (depending on the complexity of your case)|
|Increased car insurance premium costs||$3,000 – $6,000 (over a three-year period)|
|Towing and impound fees||$500 – $1,000|
|DMV driver’s license reinstatement fee||$125|
|Victim restitution fund||$140|
|Ignition interlock device (IID)||$350 – $500|
|DUI school||$500 – $800 (depending on the length of the DUI classes)|
The total cost of the above expenses is between $8,615 and $24,565.1
This amount can increase if your DUI:
Note that the above costs are for a first-offense DUI. The costs will increase for a second DUI or subsequent DUI.
The above table lists attorney fees at a dollar amount between $3,000 and $15,000.
This amount varies so much because the total amount of your attorney fees is directly impacted by the complexity of your case. Simple cases will result in lower attorney fees when compared to more complicated ones.
Consider, for example, a simple first-time DUI where you were arrested for driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08%. You did not commit an accident in the case and were arrested after driving erratically. You agree to plead guilty to the offense as part of a plea bargain.
Here, your legal fees would be on the low side of the dollar range. This is because your case is relatively straightforward, and your attorney could help resolve the case with relatively little work. “Little work” means there are fewer billable hours that you would have to pay for.
In contrast, consider the scenario where you were arrested for drunk driving, and you deny the charges with great feeling. You believe the police stopped you without probable cause and field sobriety test results do not clearly show that you were under the influence.
Here, your attorney would have to put in a lot of work to help you challenge the DUI charge. Your lawyer would likely have to prepare for trial by filing several pre-trial motions, working with field sobriety test experts, and interviewing witnesses. Your attorney would then have to try the case.
All of these acts would take much time and would generate a high level of billable hours. This high level would result in attorney fees on the higher side of the range given.
Costs would increase even more if your DUI resulted in an accident, injury, or even a death.
There are a number of factors that can affect how much your insurance rates would increase following a DUI. Some of these factors include:
If you plead guilty to a first-time DUI and have an otherwise clean driving/arrest record, your rates would likely increase in the area of between $3,000 to $4,000.
But your rates would increase even more if:
You usually have to complete some type of DUI school if convicted of drunk driving in California.
Note that the school can range in terms of its length (for example, from a 12-hour program to a 30-month program). The length of a program will increase depending on the severity of your case.
You will incur more expenses for DUI school as the length of your program increases.
Note that California does provide fee waivers or reductions if you cannot afford to attend a school.2
In addition to the above costs, you could receive other DUI penalties in California. Other possible penalties include:
Yes. You should consult with a criminal defense attorney or DUI defense lawyer if you were arrested in California for drunk driving.
A DUI defense attorney can help by:
Defense lawyers can also help you contest a DUI charge with a legal defense. For example, a DUI lawyer can help you show that:
In our experiences in handling DUI cases, people arrested for DUI receive more favorable outcomes in their cases with a skilled DUI attorney on their side.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.