How Much Does a DUI Really Cost in California?

••• CHUNYIP WONG/E+/GettyImages

Related Articles

A California driving under the influence (DUI) conviction is likely to cost an offender between $6,000 and $10,000. The total amount depends on whether the offense is a first offense DUI, second offense DUI, or third misdemeanor, or a felony DUI. The cost can rise if there are aggravating factors. According to California Vehicle Code (VC) Section 23578, a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15 percent or more can be an aggravating factor.

The total amount stated includes towing, storage and impound fees, bail, fines imposed by the court, attorney’s fees, the price of installation and daily monitoring for an ignition interlock device (IID), the cost of a DUI school, booking fees at a jail and Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) fees related to getting a restricted driver’s license. The amount also includes increased insurance premiums for the first year after the arrest.

First-Time Misdemeanor DUIs Can Be Costly

According to an estimate calculated by KXTV of Sacramento, even a first-time misdemeanor DUI can cost an offender as much as $20,000 if there are serious additional concerns. These can range from damage to the offender’s vehicle to medical bills. A DUI can also negatively affect a convicted offender's security clearance for work or a professional license. As an example, the California Board of Registered Nursing states that a licensee applying for renewal of a registered nurse license must indicate whether they have been convicted of a crime in any state since they last renewed their license.

An offender may be required to pay for the cost of a DUI program such as a substance abuse treatment program, daily monitoring through an ankle monitor and court-ordered tasks, such as attending a victim impact panel. An offender convicted of a felony DUI will have to pay the cost of supervised probation. According to California's Legislative Analyst's Office, the cost varies by county, starting at about $100 a month.

DUI Costs: What’s Not Included

Potential additional costs, including the offender’s lost earnings and attorney fees for a civil attorney in the event that the criminal DUI case leads to a related civil lawsuit can increase total expenses. The total does not include the cost of participating in a jail alternative program, which usually has a cost. As an example, the Weekend Work Program of Santa Clara County requires that participants pay to complete jail time through the program.

The total also does not include attending a court-ordered Hospital and Morgue Program or a court-ordered payment to the California Victim Compensation Program. According to the California Victim Compensation Board, an individual convicted of a DUI that causes injury or other losses may be required to pay into this restitution fund.

Court-Imposed Fines for a DUI Offense

According to VC Section 23536 and California Penal Code Section 19, the fines for a first, second, third, fourth or subsequent DUI are between $390 and $1,000, plus penalty assessments. According to the Superior Court of California, County of Amador, penalty assessments are fees added to the fine and can raise the amount of court-ordered costs by thousands of dollars. Penalty assessments vary by county. They pay for local and state costs like courthouse construction and DNA identification.

Attorney Fees and Related Costs

Attorneys across California usually charge upwards of $2,500 for representing a client in a DUI case. Some DUI attorneys charge a flat fee, such as $3,000 for a first-time DUI charged as a misdemeanor, while others charge an hourly rate. Although there is no average DUI attorney rate, California attorneys’ hourly rates tend to range between $250 and $700.

A criminal defense attorney will usually require a client to pay for costs related to the case, such as the fee for an expert witness who testifies at a hearing or trial. An attorney may charge an additional fee for representing a client in a DMV administrative hearing.

Bail and Bonds Fees for a DUI Arrest

For a DUI that did not cause property damage or injury to another person, the bail amount can range between $1,000 and $10,000. An individual who posts bail usually has to pay a bondsman 10 percent of the bail amount. For example, for a bail of $5,000, the maximum amount the individual has to pay a bondsman is $500.

DMV Fees and Form SR-22

According to VC Section 16020 and the California Department of Motor Vehicles, after an offender commits a DUI and wants to drive on a restricted license, their insurer must complete an SR-22 form and submit it to the DMV. The insurance company typically charges the offender $25 for this service. An offender will also have to pay the DMV directly for several costs, including a $125 driver’s license reissue fee for a restricted license and a $55 DUI fee. There can be additional fees connected to certain offenses, such as a $15 DUI second-time offender court restriction fee.

Increases in Insurance Premiums

The cost of a DUI includes the amount by which an insurer raises an offender’s car insurance rate. According to Money.com, drunk driving is among the most expensive offenses. U.S. News & World Report states that the increase can be more than $1,000 a year.

Motor1.com reveals there is no average car insurance increase, as the percentage of increase depends on many factors, such as whether the offender’s act of DUI caused an accident and how many DUIs the offender committed in the last 10 years. A DUI offender’s insurance rates can go up to over $4,000 per year.

An insurer can also choose to cancel an offender’s policy. The insurance-related cost of a DUI conviction is difficult to estimate without knowing the value of the offender’s vehicle after it has been repaired or the value of a replacement vehicle. The cost of an auto insurance policy is inherently tied to the worth of the vehicle. It is also tied to the ZIP code in which the offender lives and on the offender’s driving record.

Tow, Storage and Impound Fees

An offender will be required to pay a fee to tow the vehicle from the point of the DUI stop, a storage fee calculated by the amount of time the vehicle spends at an impound lot, and a DUI impound fee to release the vehicle. According to the San Jose Police Department, a towed vehicle impound release fee alone can be over $120. The total cost of fees to move, store and release a vehicle can amount to several hundred dollars. The DUI impound fee must be paid even if the owner of the vehicle was not the intoxicated driver.

DUI School Attendance Costs

According to the California Department of Health Care Services, an offender will be required to complete a three-, six- or nine-month DUI school for a first-time DUI or an 18- or 30-month DUI school for a second, third, fourth or subsequent DUI. The cost of DUI school varies, but typically starts at about $500 for a three-month course. A 30-month DUI school typically costs about $1,800.

Felony DUI Conviction Costs

According to the Restoration of Rights Project, a felony DUI conviction can cost an offender certain rights, including the right to own a firearm and the right to enlist in the Armed Forces. According to the California Secretary of State, a felony DUI conviction can cost an offender the right to vote while imprisoned or on parole for the felony conviction.

What Are Jail Booking Fees?

When DUI offenders are arrested, they are usually booked into county or city jail. An offender who spends time in jail will be required by the jail to pay booking fees. These often cost hundreds of dollars. A booking fee is not part of a sentence from a criminal or juvenile court.

As an example, the City of Westminster imposes a $206.58 arrest booking fee, a $25 fee for an arrest in which an offender is released on their own recognizance, and a $10 fee for an arrest in which an offender is cited and released.