The Cost of a DUI in California

In November, I pulled the trigger and wrote my final $800 check to cover the fine for my DUI. The last year, especially the first half of it, has been a struggle for me, going from a person who was the type to judge inebriated drivers, to someone who was handcuffed in a police car after failing to leave myself enough time after drinking at a networking event before getting behind the wheel.

If you’re the type of person who goes out and parties all the time and laughs that you’ve driven drunk more times than you can count, getting a DUI would still be frustrating, but it probably wouldn’t cause you to question your entire identity. Over the course of participating in the various programs for first-time offenses, I met a variety of people spanning the gamut from those who were partying hard and woke up in the hospital after getting behind the wheel to others who were older parents coming home from an evening out at a nice restaurant, who were arrested after their tire blew out, unrelated to their drinking. In the eyes of the law, rightly so, these people are not judged differently. (In fact, I was stunned that often the person who had a much higher BAC and flipped their car managed to get off a lot easier due to a good lawyer or luck with their prosecutor!)

For me, I was always frustrated with “how” I got caught (a citizen called 911 on me as I walked to my car) but deep down knowing that I needed the wake up call. It was a wake up call not just to this particular poor choice, but a downward spiral I had let myself get on in my life. The more stressed and depressed I got, the worse choices I made. I’m glad that I didn’t end up on a hospital bed or worse. But I did end up with one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life, going from goody two shoes to defendant.

Now that I’ve finally paid off the last bit of my DUI fine, I’ve tabulated the costs this stupid mistake have cost my networth. This isn’t over yet, however, as I still have nearly 3 more years of increased insurance, which has kept me from purchasing a newer car. In fact, I’m driving around in an embarrassing beater  to remind myself of the money I lost to this, and balance some of it out, at least the insurance fees.

Total Spent on DUI (First Offense)

$1806 DUI Fine
$3000 Lawyer
$732 First Offender Class
$25 Duplicate License
$3168 ($88 x 3 x 12) on insurance fees
———————————————–
~$8731 

There is likely other costs that I haven’t included here, so I estimate the DUI will cost $10k by the time I’m done with it. For instance, if I want to go to Canada within the next 13 years I’ll have to pay a few hundred dollar entry fee to apply since in Canada they consider a DUI a felony. So I’m probably not going to Canada for a while, but these are costs that will add to the total that I haven’t considered yet.

It really is crazy how one really stupid mistake and bad choice can cost you nearly $10,000. When they say “it’s cheaper to call a cab or EVEN A LIMO to take you home when you are drinking,” they’re right. I should have called for a limo both home and back to my car for every night I went out drinking and I’d still end up ahead. Or, more reasonably, a taxi. $10k / $100 goes a long way.

Lesson learned the hard way.

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3 comments

  1. Jessica N says:

    Just be glad you didn't take a life. My friend killed her bestfriend because she made the decision to get behind the wheel after a couple of drinks. I rarely drink, which makes me an easy volunteer for designated driver, but in the end of the night I'm grateful that the people with me will ALWAYS get home safe. Unfortunately alcohol makes it difficult to figure out if you are in fact still "legal". My family member recently bought these little disposable alcohol blood level tests… I don't remember what they were called but they were disposable and came with 2 tests. You would break it, breathe into it and if it turns a specific color you are above the limit. I advise you to start using something like that. This time it was a ticket, next time it could be an accident.

  2. slweal says:

    Thank you very much for sharing. Even though my brother got a DUI (when he totaled my mother's car in a one car collision, no injuries), my parent hid the costs and since he was under 21 it was less expensive. This number wakes me up. I have only on 2 instances been in danger of a DUI, but now I will be very vigilant about it. My car cost about 10,000 dollars. With the level of debt I have a DUI would be unaffordable.

  3. Money Beagle says:

    For years I've always heard that DUIs cost around $10k but never really understood all the costs that went into that number. I'm sorry that you had to actually go through it, but you did provide insight and answered that question for me, and if your posts have been the difference for even one other person to make a better decision, then the time you put into sharing your story is well worth it.

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