How a DUI Can Wreck Your Personal Finances

October 10, 2022
 By Erin H.

The last thing anybody wants is to be charged with driving under the influence, also known as a DUI. However, they happen every year, especially during the holidays. In Texas alone, more than 2,500 crashes took place between November and December in 2017.

Not only can getting a DUI come with hefty fines, but it can carry various other consequences that are both inconvenient and costly. If you’re not careful, a DUI can go on to wreck your personal finance.

How do you get a DUI?

You probably already know it’s illegal to drive while drunk, but did you know that you don’t necessarily have to be ‘drunk’ in order to get a DUI? That’s because police officers base their citations on blood alcohol content or BAC. Since everyone feels alcohol effects in different intensities based on body proportions, biological gender, age, and genetics, people can be cited for drunk driving even if they are acting sober, so long as their BAC is at or above the legal limit.

In almost all states from coast to coast, the legal limit for driving after having consumed alcohol when driving is a BAC of 0.08%, including the state of California. Utah is the exception, having lowered the legal limit to 0.05% BAC in 2019. Many states impose also stricter penalties at higher BAC levels.

To determine BAC, police officers typically use a breathalyzer test, though prior coordination tests may be issued. If a crash occurred and the driver is receiving medical attention, their BAC may be analyzed via a blood test.

The hidden costs of getting a DUI

Getting a DUI isn’t just a matter of paying a fee and moving on with life. Whether it’s your first time or a repeat offense, getting a DUI can come with expensive consequences on personal finance, either through direct fines or inconveniences:

  • Fines — these vary in amount by state, generally between $200 and $5,000 for a first-time offense. Repeat offenders face heftier fines.
  • Jail time — some states impose a minimum of 24 hours to 48 hours in jail for a first-time DUI. If property damage, bodily injury, or death was involved (or in repeat offender cases), longer upfront jail time may be imposed as well as prison time.
  • License suspension — even first-time offenders may have to forfeit their license for a while in some states. DUIs can come with license suspensions of weeks to months or even years, which means having to pay for public transportation or missing work if transportation cannot be arranged.
  • Legal fees — in order to get the best outcome possible, most people will need to enlist the help of an experienced attorney. Depending on the specific circumstances, the person with a DUI may have to pay the legal costs of other parties (such as the person whose car they hit).
  • Lawsuits — if property damage or bodily injury was involved, the person found to be driving under the influence is most often the party found to be at fault. If the opposite parties sue, the person with the DUI may owe them thousands.
  • Car insurance rates — getting a DUI can cause your auto insurance rates to rise considerably. This can make it challenging to afford other routine car costs, like basic maintenance (more than $60 billion worth of auto care is estimated to go unperformed each year), which can lead to even bigger costs down the line.

Is a DUI the same as a DWI?

A DUI stands for ‘Driving Under the Influence’ whereas a DWI stands for ‘Driving While Intoxicated.’ Understandably, the two terms are often used interchangeably.

Depending on the state you live in, you may find yourself facing a citation for an OUI or ‘Operating Under the Influence’ or a DWAI, ‘Driving While Ability Impaired.’ Some jurisdictions may have their own unique terms carrying similar legal risks and penalties.

Regardless of the semantics, it is important that you consult with an experienced attorney if you get a DUI in order to reduce the financial loss and lasting impact.

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