When prohibitions against drunk driving began in 1910, there was no set limit to determine whether a driver was in fact intoxicated at the time of arrest. But all that changed, first in 1938 when the American Medical Association and the National Safety Council determined that a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.15 percent should be the recognized legal limit for drivers. That limit remained the standard until the year 2000 when a new federal incentive grant was created to encourage all jurisdictions to adopt the current BAC limit of 0.8 percent.

However, other penalties and fines have been implemented since those first DUI laws went into effect. Now, in addition to the hassles of spending a night in jail and the subsequent suspensions of both your driver’s license and many commercial licenses, your pocketbook will be hardest hit if you get a DUI in California.
woman behind wheel after DUI acquittal

1. Fines

If you are arrested and convicted of drunk driving, you face up to $3,600 in fines alone and this is only for a first-offense misdemeanor. The itemized list of fees when a DUI does not result in bodily injury or death include a $1,000 fine, plus another $2,600 in penalty assessments.

2. DUI School

In California, everyone convicted of DUI must complete a DUI program. Depending on your BAC and previous DUI history, you may be subject to as little as 12 hours for a “Wet Reckless” conviction. However, multiple offenders will be required to complete more than 390 hours of education, counseling, and community service.

3. Ignition Interlock

Luckily, there is one saving grace for those who absolutely need to drive their vehicle whether it be for work or because they have a family to shuttle about town. But an ignition interlock device does not come cheaply and will cost you about $800 for installation, calibration and rental fees over the duration of its use. Most of the time it is best to rely on the assistance of a DUI attorney in order to reduce your chances of having one of these devices required in your vehicle.

4. SR-22 Filing

It may be possible to acquire car insurance following a DUI conviction, but you will pay a hefty price for this privilege. The amount you are charged for insurance will rely on the nature of your conviction, your age, and the company you choose.

5. License Re-Issue

Many are unaware that you can now have your license physically taken from you by law enforcement simply for being suspected of DUI and it will be held for a minimum of 4 months before being returned to your possession. If you are convicted and your license is suspended it will cost you $125 to have it reinstated.

6. Vehicle Impoundment

Another expensive aspect of a DUI conviction is that your vehicle may be held up to 30 days at your expense. The cost to have your car towed may be more than $800. Then the tow company will charge daily storage rates and require release fees of up to $250. If you are free to continue working you will be forced to pay for taxis and other public transportation and this will always cost more than the gas you would have used if driving your own vehicle.

7. Attorney’s Fees

Yes, lawyers cost money and most will require a somewhat large retainer in order to take your case. These DUI attorney fees may range anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 depending on your case with most averaging approximately $3,500. However, these costs go toward the reduction of your other fines and fees because these attorneys specialize in doing that for their clients.

8. Lost Wages

One of the biggest financial burdens that come with a DUI conviction are the lost wages. You may be required to serve up to six -months imprisonment which means you will not be working. Not only that, any time that is taken off for drug and alcohol education classes or any required community service will also eat away at your paychecks.

Legal experts everywhere will tell you to hire a lawyer if you are arrested for DUI and this advice is sound. No matter the situation, any chance to reduce or even eliminate some fines and fees will only serve to save you money in the end.