Before you overindulge in alcohol and try to drive home this holiday season, you might want to consider the impact that a driving-under-the-influence conviction, or DUI, could have on your auto insurance, to say nothing of your bank account.
According to the Insurance Information Institute of California, by the time you factor in the court costs, fines, attorneys' fees, traffic school, probation and higher auto insurance premiums, that extra cup of cheer could wind up costing you $10,000 and quite possibly more.
Depending on the laws in your state, a DUI can open the door to a world of financial misery from the moment you notice those police tumbler lights in your rear-view mirror.
In many states, your driver's license gives "implied consent" to having your breath, blood or urine tested if you're pulled over for suspected drunken driving. If you refuse or fail the roadside test, your license may be suspended on the spot and you'll most likely be taken into custody for that long, lonely ride to the slammer. Some states, including California, may fine you for refusing the test, even if it's later determined that you were not driving under the influence.
Once incarcerated, the financial drain really starts to kick in. Here's a brief rundown of the bills you might rack up, even as you sober up.
- Impound costs: That's right; expect to pay the state an impound fee and possibly a vehicle release fee for towing and stowing your vehicle until your DUI is sorted out. At a minimum, California drivers can expect the impound ticker to start at $250.
- Bail bond: Unless you really enjoy the county lockup, you'll want out of jail, fast. Your bail can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the circumstances of your arrest. If you don't have that kind of money, you'll require the services of a…
- Bail bondsman, who will typically charge you 10 percent for loaning you the bail amount. That means if your bail is set at $5,000, you'll be out $500 to your bondsman.
- Fine: Upon first conviction, you'll be charged a fine. In California, it ranges from $390 to $1,000, according to the IIIC.
- Jail time/missed work: If you're convicted, even on a first offense, you may face jail time, although some jurisdictions may offer work service. California, for example, requires that 96 hours, including 48 consecutive hours, be served. A DUI conviction remains on your driving record for years and your personal record for life if an employer conducts a background check.
- Probation: You're not entirely out of the woods yet. Many states require several years of probation; in California, it's three.
- Auto rates rise: Your auto insurance company will place a surcharge on your policy that may remain in effect for three to 10 years.
- Reinstatement: To get your license back, you may have to pay a reissue fee ($125 in California), complete a state-approved alcohol treatment program, and possibly pay to install a "Breathalizer" ignition interlock device on your vehicle to help prevent another DUI.
This is one list that you do not want any part of during the holiday season.
So, be merry but be wary: don't drink and drive.
Follow me on Twitter: @omnisaurus
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