Most people, when arrested on a DUI charge, are more concerned about the penalties or punishments the court will impose on them. Often, people never stop to think of the other costs, especially financial costs associated with a DUI offense and eventual conviction. In California, the cost of a DUI charge can be high. This charge attracts other requirements that are costly to the defendant and are easily overlooked. The best way to avoid most of these costs is to fight DUI charges in order to have lesser penalties and associated costs. When facing DUI charges, talking to a DUI lawyer is the best start to fighting the allegations. At Orange County DUI Defense Lawyer, we have the experience to fight your DUI charge and get a favorable outcome.

Overview of a DUI Charge

In order to understand the costs of a DUI charge, it is essential to know what is involved in a DUI offense and the possible penalties a conviction can bring. The penalties for a DUI conviction in California are severe. The law prohibits individuals from operating a vehicle when their BAC is at 0.08% or more.

Different situations, however, call for various BAC restrictions. If one is a commercial driver or holds a commercial driver’s license, they are restricted from driving if their BAC is 0.04% or higher. For persons aged 21 or below, the BAC limit is even lower, meaning if arrested with a BAC of 0.01% or higher, you face DUI charges. For DUI charges to be preferred against a person, there must be evidence the person was operating a vehicle while their BAC was over the legal limit.

A DUI offense may include multiple crimes that attract varied costs. Often, DUI offenses start either from a checkpoint or when one is stopped for suspected intoxicated driving. A law enforcement officer after stopping a motorist and proceeding to conduct field sobriety tests. If you fail the tests, you will be arrested for suspected intoxicated driving, and more tests will be carried out at the station. Should you refuse to submit to the chemical tests, the penalties you will face will be harsher. Automatically, you will have your license suspended for at least a year, and reinstating it will be another cost.

The law that regulates a DUI crime is found under VEH 23153. A standard DUI offense, as described by the law, is where a driver is found operating a vehicle when their alcohol content is above the legal limit. Intoxication by drugs is also illegal when operating a vehicle. A standard DUI offense is typically prosecuted as a misdemeanor, and the costs associated with it are lower than other DUI offenses.

If a DUI offense had aggravating factors, it might be charged as a felony, and the costs associated with it will be much higher. Aggravating factors may include causing injuries to another person, causing a fatality and other factors.

Additionally, the costs associated with a DUI depends on whether the offense is a first one or a repeat offense. A DUI offense is a priorable offense in California, meaning as one repeats the offense, the penalties and costs increase with each offense.

Irrespective of the DUI offense charges against you, talking to a DUI lawyer immediately following your charges is essential to start planning your defense. Your lawyer will gather evidence around the offense, may visit the accident scene, order a re-testing of your blood, among other things. All these will be expenses that go to the overall cost of a DUI offense. However, having an excellent defense may mean a reduction of the overall cost at the end of the case. This is especially when a favorable outcome is arrived at. Due to the various factors around a DUI offense, the costs for each charge will vary.

The Average Cost of a California DUI

As earlier stated, the penalties for a DUI conviction in California are harsh even for a misdemeanor conviction. The fines associated with the offense may seem cheap, but the associated expenses can be exorbitant. For instance, even with a first DUI offense without any aggravating factors, the related costs are very high. Some of the expenses a defendant will face include:

  • The court imposed fines one has to pay
  • The additional administrative costs by the court
  • Damages you may have caused to others and even yourself
  • Costs of impounding your car
  • Costs of the various programs you may be ordered to attend.

The above are just some of the costs you may have to face when you get charged with a standard DUI offense. According to VEH 23152a and VEH 23152b, some of the standard expenses you may face include:

Legal Costs – when you are convicted with either first, second, or third DUI offense, you will be ordered to pay a fine. The fines for these offenses range between $390 and $1,000. In most cases, the judge will add penalty assessment fees that may raise the overall bill to a minimum of $1,750, and higher. An approximate cost for a first offender where no aggravating factors are taken into account, the cost may go as high as $15,000.

With these costs, you can try and imagine if the offense had any aggravating factors. Below, we summarize some of the costs of a first DUI offense that will help you understand the high costs of DUI charges in California.

  • Minimum fines for a first DUI offense - $390
  • Court costs as ordered - $1,245
  • Booking as well as fingerprints - $170
  • Impounding and towing fee - $350
  • Fund for Victim Restitution - $140
  • 3 Month DUI school program - $575
  • Driver’s license fee at the DMV - $125
  • Increase in Insurance premium - $10,000
  • Cost of Bail - $2,500
  • Total Cost - $15,105

It is important to note that the above costs vary based on the case, location, and on the minimum amounts, one can pay. This total estimate is what a defendant would pay when they get a standard first DUI conviction. However, the costs do not include the cost of your lawyer and the expenses associated with gathering evidence.

How to Interpret the Figures

For many, it can be challenging to comprehend the costs associated with a DUI charge because of the legal language used often. A defendant needs to understand there are many other costs in addition to the above for your first DUI. Below, we discuss what each cost means for your understanding.

  • Court Ordered Legal Fees – if you are convicted of a first DUI offense, you will be required to pay up to $1,245 in court fees. If a second, third, or fourth conviction, the charges may increase. However, should you not be found guilty, the charges will be lower. This means, whether found guilty or not, a defendant will be expected to pay legal fees to the court as directed by the judge.
  • Lawyer’s Fees – Getting a skilled attorney to defend you is always a good idea. However, lawyers come with a cost, and it is not cheap. The average cost of a lawyer for a first DUI offense may range between $3,000 and $5,000. If your DUI offense is more complicated such as a felony or a repeat offense, the costs may go higher depending on the attorney. Should you decide to get a public defender, their cost is significantly lower.
  • Bond – the circumstances of your arrest and offense will determine if you are given a chance to post bail and how much it will be. Because of the varying factors, the bail amount will range between $150 and $2,500. Always keep in mind that the bail amount is generally paid in totality in one payment.
  • Vehicle Insurance Premium Increases – most insurers increase the amount of premiums a driver will pay for an auto cover if they have a DUI conviction. On average, your auto cover may increase with about $800 annually, while other insurers may go higher. Some insurers will, however, deny renewing your cover or issuing you another one when you have a DUI conviction.
  • DUI School Programs – most first offenders will be sentenced to attend a DUI program for three months. The average cost for the program is $575 for the entire period. Second, third, and fourth-time offenders are ordered to attend the DUI program for more extended periods. This will mean that the cost of the program will increase as the period increases. $575 is the minimum amount a defendant would pay for the program.
  • Ignition Interlock Device – most DUI penalties include an order for the defendant to install an IID device in their vehicles. This is more so when the defendant wants to get a restricted driver’s license, or the court wants to prevent them from drunk driving. An IID installation comes with its costs as well as maintenance costs. On average, the cost of installing an IID would be $170, without considering maintenance costs.
  • Department of Motor Vehicles Payments – in every DUI offense, the DMV automatically suspends a defendant’s license, and in some cases, revokes it entirely. After serving the penalties or finishing the suspension period, you may require having your license reinstated. The cost of reinstating your license will range between $125 and $260. This is without putting into consideration the cost of getting an SR22 certificate. This certificate is a requirement in reinstating your license.

Aside from the above-explained costs, there are many other costs a defendant will face, some of which are not monetary. Below, we discuss the various additional costs a DUI defendant is likely to face.

Other Additional Costs to a DUI

Jail Time – a first time offender faces a lesser jail sentence as compared to subsequent convictions. A misdemeanor will cost the defendant between two days and six months imprisonment in county prison. Sometimes, a judge can sentence a first offender to summary probation where the defendant will not serve any jail time.

If you are a second time offender, your jail sentence will range between three days and a year in prison. A defendant can also be sentenced to summary probation or house arrest. Other times, he or she can be assigned to work programs in jail. A third offense will cost the defendant a jail time of between five days and a year in county prison.

Time is an expensive commodity that is impossible to quantify, and once gone, it cannot be recovered. When a person is sentenced to serve time in jail, their highest cost is time. Additionally, the income a person would have earned during this time is lost.

Whether you are sentenced to community service, house arrest, or jail sentence, you will not have the freedom to make a living as you once did. This is a high cost to one’s overall income besides the legal costs a DUI charge will attract.

License Suspension – a conviction for a first DUI offense will attract a license suspension of 6 months from the court and the DMV a four-month suspension. The DMV suspension is usually automatic if you are arrested for operating a vehicle when your BAC is 0.08% or higher. A second offense will get a court suspension of two years and a DMV one of one year. If one is a commercial vehicle license holder, the license suspension period is even longer.

While your license is on suspension, you will find yourself spending money on public transportation or cabs, that over time, may be highly expensive. If one has to apply for a restricted driver’s license, the DMV will charge you for it just like it will when you ask to reinstate your license.

The cost of a commercial vehicle driver is higher. If you were earning your living as a commercial vehicle driver, while your license is on suspension, you would not be able to work. This means you will have lost wages for the period, and you may be forced to get a less paying job.

Professional License Cost – when one is convicted of a DUI offense, some professional licenses may be suspended. This will mean the person will not dispense the services that come with their profession, meaning lost income. Aside from losing income, to get your professional license reinstated will also cost you money. The cost of reinstating a professional license varies from one professional body to the other.

Probation – for each level of DUI offense, the probation period a judge can sentence a defendant would range between three years and five years if informal. Probation comes with many conditions and must be complied with. One of the popular terms of probation is attending a DUI school. A first defendant may be sentenced to a three month DUI school program. This program would cost $575 for three months. Typically, most DUI programs run for between 18 months and thirty months for subsequent convictions. This means the cost of the program increases with each sentence.

As one is serving probation, they may be sentenced to community service. This means that they spend hours doing activities that are not economically beneficial to them while losing hours they would be earning an income.

IID Costs – the state of California will provide every DUI offender with the opportunity to seek for a restricted IID driver’s license. The cost of installing the device will be paid by the defendant as well as the monthly maintenance cost. The cost of installation may be between $120 and $170, with a monthly maintenance fee ranging from $60 to $80.

A first time offender is likely to be asked to have the device in place for six months, while the period increases for every subsequent offense. This means that as long as one has an IID device in their car, a monthly fee is paid.

Expungement Costs – After serving your probation or sentence following a DUI conviction, a defendant may want to have their records expunged. This does not come without a cost to the defendant. Applying or filing for the expungement petition will attract a cost as well as paying your lawyer to do it.

Miscellaneous Costs – aside from costs that are easy to quantify, there are many other costs that a defendant may incur. Throughout the trial, one may be required to make court appearances. This will cost them money for traveling and the income they lose during that period.

Prosecution’s Burden of Proof

As discussed in detail above, the costs associated with a DUI charge are high and more so if one gets convicted of the offense. In order to be convicted of a DUI offense and face all these costs, the prosecutor must prove you committed the offense. This is usually done by proving some of the following elements as true:

Probable Cause – it is unlawful for a law enforcement officer to stop you without probable cause or reason. The officer cannot stop you without reason. Some of the reasons may include a broken light, disregarding a red light, or having an invalid license tag. Any of these, among others, can be good reasons why an officer will stop you.

Upon stopping, the officer may find more reasons to request you to take a field sobriety test. If you displayed signs of intoxication, the driver is legally allowed to ask you to take these tests. A failure on the tests will mean you will be arrested to allow further investigations.

However, if the officer had no reason to stop you, this would be a basis for your defense. Your lawyer can argue that the officer targeted you for no probable reason. This argument can create a doubt in the prosecutor’s case that can result in being prosecuted for lesser offenses or a dismissal.

BAC Level – the prosecutor must prove that your BAC levels were beyond the legal limit. If you were arrested and after chemical tests, it was established that your BAC levels were 0.08% or more, it is evidence of your intoxication. However, your lawyer can also challenge the BAC results as a form of defense to indicate that you were not intoxicated nor were you impaired.

Driving – the prosecutor is also expected to prove that you were the driver of the vehicle. There are various elements that a prosecutor must show with regard to this. For instance, he or she must demonstrate without a doubt where the driver was seated in the vehicle if there were other people in the car, among others.

Impairment – a prosecutor, will use the results from your field sobriety test to establish that you were impaired at the time of the arrest. However, these tests are not 100% accurate. Failing sobriety tests alone are not sufficient to get you convicted of a DUI offense. The prosecutor to prove your impairment must be supported by chemical test results from your urine or blood and even breath.

Legal Defenses in DUI Offenses

When allegations of drunk or drugged driving are brought against you, hiring a skilled lawyer is one of the best ways to avoid a wrongful conviction. Severe penalties that will be costly can also be avoided as well. As earlier discussed, the cost of DUI charges in California is very high, but they can be avoided or reduced significantly with excellent defense.

A DUI lawyer is experienced in formulating various defense strategies to overcome these allegations. Some of the popular strategies your lawyer may use include:

The symptoms displayed were no signs of intoxication – officers are trained to look out for specific symptoms when it comes to suspected DUI offenders. Watery eyes and slurred speech are among the common symptoms. However, these symptoms can be a result of fatigue, allergies, or irritation of the eyes. Having these signs is not a certain way to indicate intoxication. Your lawyer can explore this defense to create doubt in the prosecutor’s case.

Inaccurate Field Sobriety Tests – Poor performance in these tests is heavily relied on by prosecutors to argue their case. Without a lawyer, some of these arguments can lead to your conviction. Your skilled lawyer can argue about the accuracy of these tests and the various conditions that can affect the outcome. Flat feet, nerves, fatigue are among the multiple factors that can affect the results of the test.


Failure to follow Title 17 Procedures – in carrying out chemical tests following a DUI arrest, there are regulations as stipulated in Title 17. If the rules were not correctly followed, they could lead to wrong results. Your lawyer can challenge the procedure followed, and if the defense is valid, the results can be excluded as evidence against you. This can lead to a dismissal of the accusations against you.

Finding a Orange County DUI Lawyer Near Me

A DUI conviction in California carries severe penalties for the defendant. This is aside from the other financial and non-financial costs one would face. To avoid these costs or reduce them significantly, one is required to fight against these allegations. Finding an experienced DUI lawyer to defend you is essential in preventing these costs, among other penalties. At Orange County DUI Defense Lawyer, we can offer you excellent legal representation to fight DUI charges and avoid the high costs associated. Call our office at 714-820-9592, and let us discuss your case in detail.