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How much is my DUI in Atlanta, Georgia going to cost?

Fox Five did a story on December 30, 2009, on the cost of an Atlanta DUI. Each year in Georgia about 200,000 people are arrested for DUI.  In the five-county Metro Atlanta area, there are more than 20,000 arrests each year.   They concluded that a DUI will cost on average about $10,000.00.

That means that every year Georgians spend 2 Billion dollars on DUI Defense and associated costs! That is Billion with a B.  In Metro Atlanta, DUIs cost people Two Hundred Million Dollars annually.  I would estimate that the government spends at least that amount on arresting and prosecuting DUI drivers which includes police salaries, training, vehicles, equipment (the State Administered DUI Breath test machines cost $10,000 apiece), law enforcement to calibrate the breath test machines, jails, jail staff, courts, court staff, jury fees.  That amount totals 4 billion dollars a year or more to prosecute, fine, and jail people who are arguably not drunk at 0.08.  Four Billion dollars could have bought Marvel Comics, Netscape, or be the trade surplus of S. Korea and that is every year.

Atlanta’s Fox Five did an interesting breakdown of costs that I will examine more closely.

Bail: $150-$2,500 (out of pocket expense). The cost of DUI bail depends on how many offenses you’ve had, the circumstances of the arrest, and your blood alcohol level.  I would estimate that DUI bonds are more in the range of $1200-$10,000, but if you use bondsmen you will only lose about 12% of that amount.

Towing: $50-$200. The cost of towing and impounding a car can add up daily. Some cities even auction your car if you can’t afford to get it back after 30 days.  This is about right.

Insurance: $4,500 or more. One of the biggest expenses a person arrested for DUI faces is insurance premiums increases.   Insurance rates can rise for three to five years. Rates can likely double, triple, or even quadruple, and companies will classify the policy as high-risk. This is about right but the increase in rates usually spends 3 to 5 years, so it is not $4,500.00 all at one time.

Legal fee: $2,000-$25,000. Some lawyers charge as little as $1,500 for a quick plea or a one-time court appearance.  When so much is at stake, many people arrested for DUI chose to fight the charge.  Legal fees get much higher with lawyers would investigate and fighting the charge.  This is about right, but it is important not to compare the fee of a plea lawyer to a trial lawyer.  There are a small number of DUI attorneys in Atlanta that routinely have DUI jury trials while the majority of lawyers just scare their clients into a plea agreement at the first opportunity.  The way to tell the difference is by the fee charged and simply ask them how many DUI jury trials they have tried.  A lawyer who is going to explore every opportunity to beat a DUI will build that time into his or her fee.  No lawyer can intelligently inform you on your decision to plea to a DUI until at least reviewing the police report, viewing the video, and talking to the police officer if not actually having a motion hearing.  The least that can reasonably cost is about $3,500.00.  A public defender in federal court can charge up to $125.00 dollars per hour and a maximum for 2010 of $9,700 for felonies at the trial court level and $6,900 for appeal (previously $8,600/$6,100); $2,800 for misdemeanors at the trial court level (most DUIs are misdemeanors) and $6,900 for appeal (previously $2,400/$6,100); $9,700 for non-capital post-conviction proceedings under 18 U.S.C. §§ 2241, 2254 or 2255 and $6,900 for appeal (previously $8,600/$6,000); $2,100 for most other non-capital representations and $2,100 for appeal (previously $1,800/$1,800).  A private lawyer should be at least 2 to 3 times as much or more as a public defender.  Further, some courts make you pay back your court-appointed lawyer fees, and if you don’t pay you to go to jail.  It is also important to remember that a private lawyer will generally have a maximum of 1-5 clients at a given court appearance whereas a public defender may have as many as 10-100 clients at a given court appearance so you are much less likely to be able to speak with your public defender in court in a meaningful manner and never get them on the phone.

Fines: $300-$5000. Depending on your offense, and if there have been any other arrests in the past. This is about right

Alcohol evaluation: $95-$300. An evaluation is required of anyone who is sentenced by a court for drunken driving. This is about right.

Alcohol Education and treatment: $500-$4,000 for basic treatment. If you are convicted, you must usually go through an education or treatment program, especially if your license has been suspended. This is about right.

License reinstatement fees: $210-$410. If you are convicted of a DUI in Georgia (or any other state), you can expect to face several fees to secure the reinstatement of your driver’s license. After you have completed a state-certified risk reduction program, which costs $287, you can reinstate your Georgia driver’s license for a fee of $210-$410. This is about right.

In addition to the “standard” costs of a DUI conviction, there are some consequences that are more difficult to place a number value upon but can be more devastating to many people. DUI arrests and convictions cost money, time, and can lead to job loss or prevent future employment opportunities by showing up on employment background checks including community service hours ranging from 40 hours to 240 hours, probation appointment during work hours, DUI school, alcohol counseling sessions, and AA meetings.