Russell Hebets Feb. 17, 2016

Recent ad campaigns are approaching the issue of DUI in terms of cost. See the guy moving back into his mother’s basement? He just had to spend over 10k on a DUI and the expense is another serious punishment. Not to mention that his lifestyle is seriously cramped living at home. So just how accurate are these numbers? 

Attorney Fees: $4000 - $8000 

Fees will vary depending on the facts of the case and your priors. A first time DUI is cheaper to handle. A subsequent DUI and some aggravated first offenses may mean that jail time is on the table.  This will increase your attorney fees as they have to work much harder to prevent more serious consequences. But if you think this means you will save money by going with a public defender, think again. Public defenders have strict criteria for people to qualify for their services which disqualifies most individuals.  Public defenders also work huge caseloads. It is very likely you won’t get the personal attention you or your case deserve. Therefore, you are more likely to confront the consequences outlined below and these consequences are not cheap.  

Court and Administrative Fees: $1500

These may include jail fees if they take you in for the night, bond or bail if they require it, towing and impound fees for your vehicle, chemical testing fees for the blood or breath test they use, fines related to your charges, and license reinstatement fees if your license is revoked, even if temporarily.  

Alcohol Classes: $25 per class for a minimum of 24 hours

Most people charged with a DUI or DWAI are required to participate in alcohol education. These classes teach participants about the effects of alcohol on the individual and on the community. Even when not required, many attorneys will encourage you to participate to show good faith to the court in your efforts to take the charges seriously.  Upon a conviction virtually every defendant is required to complete alcohol classes, and it is very likely that significantly more than 24 hours will be ordered.  

Probation and/ or Community Service Fees: $50 per month for up to two years

Depending on the charges you agree to plea to, or are convicted of, you may have a period of time under probation, and the costs to supervise you during this time are charged to you. In addition to the probation supervision, you may be required to take chemical tests, usually urinalysis, costs of which are also charged to you. If you are required to perform community service, then there are sign up fees for that too.  

Jail or Alternative Sentencing costs: vary

DUI in Colorado is a very serious matter that can come with jail time; this is especially true for a second or subsequent offense. If you take an alternative sentence, like work release, or in-home detention, those programs have costs that are your responsibility.  

Interlock Device: $100 or more to install, then monthly fees of around $85

A DUI in Colorado involves two aspects: administrative and criminal. In both areas you risk losing your driver’s license as a result of being charged with a DUI. This revocation is can last anywhere from 30 days to 2 years, depending on the circumstances.  After a period of revocation, your driving privileges generally are only returned on the condition of driving with an interlock device, which is a car breathalyzer. This costs money to install and it costs money to maintain for every month of your probationary period, which may last up to two years. Additionally, it is required on every vehicle that is registered to you, so the costs may multiply.  

A lawyer can help you through the administrative part by handling your DMV hearing and working to keep your license. A win here means less money spent on alternative transportation and less money spent on an interlock device. Even if the court decides a revocation is needed in your case, it is usually for far less time than what the DMV orders, which still results in savings.  

Higher Car Insurance Rates: $3000 - $6000 over three years

If you are convicted of a DUI you will be required to get special auto insurance known as a SR-22. This is expensive and required for three years, costing you an additional 3-6 thousand over that time.  

Hidden Costs 

This may include transportation fees like cabs or buses, possible job loss or loss of time at work due to DUI related obligations like court, classes and probation. These obligations may require that you make arrangements for child or elder care as well. And if you have received this DUI while visiting the state you will have additional travel costs to pay as you return for your appearances.  


Restitution may be ordered for any costs, injuries or damages incurred by your charges. It can be as simple as paying back the state for the cost of your chemical test to covering the costs of another person’s injuries or property damage. And restitution can be ordered well after your case has ended. 

But these expenses reflect conviction on all charges. What happens if you plead to a lesser non-alcohol charge or get a not guilty? The answer is simple: it will cost you less with less long term consequences.  

By working with an attorney to lessen the severity of the charge, you may not have to endure as long a probation period or an interlock device and its fees.  

Attorneys can work with DAs to discuss extenuating circumstances and your personal history in an effort to get lesser charges or to have charges dropped.  

An attorney may also be able to challenge evidence and procedures to determine whether your constitutional rights were violated.  If there were these types of violations, this often leads to a reduced charge or dismissal.  

An attorney may appear for you in court at several points in the process, saving you time and money and preserving your job. They can also review and challenge restitution orders, making sure that the charges are fair and actually represent damages attributable to you.  

And most importantly, an attorney can help you avoid jail time, which not only saves you money in terms of fees but allows you to maintain your life, work and obligations.  

So will a DUI cost you 10k? The answer is if you’re lucky, for a first time DUI and with a good lawyer. The reality is a DUI costs more between 12 and 16 thousand dollars. An experienced lawyer can get you a better deal, reduced charges or even a dismissal.  As a result of that you save thousands of dollars, avoid jail time and avoid more severe charges on your record.