Thinking about getting behind the wheel after downing a few beers? That decision’s effect on your bottom line may cause you to think twice.
More than 1.2 million people were arrested in the United States for driving under the influence (DUI) in 2011, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports. Those folks incurred thousands of dollars in DUI-related costs such as bail, attorney’s fees, court costs, and fines.
These aren’t the only expenses that DUI offenders face. Through the past half dozen years as an attorney, I’ve watched many defense attorneys explain to their clients all of the ways this arrest burns a much larger hole in the pocketbook than many other crimes. Only then do many offenders realize that it would have been much cheaper to call a cab.
Here are three less obvious costs associated with driving drunk.
1. Court-Mandated Programs. A drunk driving offender’s sentence doesn’t end in the courtroom. Many states require DUI offenders to complete alcohol safety education programs; this several-week course can cost several hundred dollars to register. Some judges order DUI offenders to attend victim impact panels sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD); costs to attend the one-time class vary but reliably add another few bills to the total. Finally, some probation offices collect fees to offset the costs of drug and alcohol screening.
2. Restitution. Drunk drivers who cause others to incur out-of-pocket expenses (such as insurance deductibles, property repair, or medical expenses) are often court-ordered to repay the victim restitution. Some states, like Virginia, also have laws that hold DUI offenders accountable for reimbursing local law enforcement and other government agencies for their time spent responding to drunk drivers. Unlike a late credit card bill or rent payment, failure to pay these expenses can actually send you to jail.
3. Transportation. DUI offenders face a high likelihood of transportation expenses as a result of losing their privilege to drive; fees for catching a ride with a friend, riding the bus, or hopping on the metro vary depending on where you live or work. The costs don’t end once you’re able to drive again; many states require drunk drivers to install an ignition interlock on their vehicles upon regaining their licenses. Installation and set-up can cost a few hundred dollars, and any violation can trigger new criminal charges. Furthermore, if you work in the transportation industry or have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), a DUI conviction can also cost you your livelihood.
If you’re out having a good time, don’t forget to have a sober driver or cab company on speed dial. If you can afford the drinks, you can afford the ride home. It will keep your life savings in the bank – and save lives on the road.