Deseret News article: “First-Time DUI Fees Can Top $10,000” (10/16/09)
First-time DUI fees can top $10,000 Hefty costs come on top of losing driver’s license, having car impounded By Linda Thomson Deseret News In the midst of this recession, probably the last thing anybody needs is a new batch of bills that can easily add up to thousands of dollars.
In that case, it might be smart to rethink taking that next drink, or if you do have “just one more,” handing the car keys to someone else.
All lecturing and moralizing aside, many Utahns may be surprised at how expensive it is for just one DUI. A first-time misdemeanor DUI can cost a bundle, risk your driver’s license, hike your car insurance for a decade and consume hours of time.
“I have to tell you, it’s huge,” said Jason Schatz, a Salt Lake attorney with specialized training who handles many DUI cases.
A basic first-time DUI can end up costing a minimum of more than $3,000 from the start—and that is calculated with a straight-up guilty plea, no attorney costs and no figures added in for higher insurance rates.
That amount easily could rise to $10,000 or even much, much more, if an individual were to include such things as attorney fees, a higher fine imposed by the judge and more expensive car insurance, which often can be the most costly part of a DUI.
The figure would jump alarmingly higher than that if an individual ends up needing in-patient alcohol treatment or loses a job because of a DUI conviction.
Schatz has many clients who want to fight DUIs in court and retain their driver’s licenses, and he pursues these cases vigorously. But even for the person who simply wants to plead guilty, take the penalty and get it over with, the financial repercussions are still rugged.
From his perspective, Utah is too tough on the first-time offender who may never have broken the law before.
“In my opinion, it’s going a little bit too far,” Schatz said. “I can understand much harsher penalties for repeat offenders. I weigh 185 pounds and if I have five beers while playing nine holes of golf, I’d be risking all these penalties. People who are 45-50 years old, who are playing golf or attending a wedding—all of this could come down on their heads.”
One woman’s story
Sarah (not her real name) was shocked at the financial and emotional costs of a first-time DUI arrest. She is a Utah County woman who is a mom, a manager at a respected corporation and someone whose previous run-ins with the law only involved a few speeding tickets.
She said she had three glasses of wine with friends one day after work last year, was pulled over and tested drunk on a Breathalyzer. However, her case was later dismissed and she believes it was because of huge discrepancies in what the arresting officer said on the squad car video, in a written report, in testimony at a driver’s license hearing and in court.
Still, it was a miserable—and expensive—experience.
“It was $8,000 and all kinds of humiliation,” she recalls.
Sarah wasn’t booked into jail, but had to call a relative to come and get her. “That was one of the most humiliating experiences in my life.”
She does not approve of drunken driving at all and still is amazed she did something so stupid.
he sought therapy and learned she is not an alcoholic, but she did need counseling for problems dealing with stress, as well as family and work issues.
Meanwhile, she lost her driver’s license for a time and had to have a close friend drive her to and from work.
Sarah admits her conduct that night was wrong, but was stunned by what she learned about Utah’s laws and how she was treated by officials who handle these cases.
“Their attitude is, ‘You screwed up and too bad—we don’t want to help you in any way,’?” she said. “It may be your first offense, but it might as well be your 10th.”
She was so embarrassed she told no one except her family and the one friend who kindly gave her rides.
She said she has truly learned a lesson—if she drinks at all, which is sparingly and seldom, someone else always drives.
To get an idea of the financial impact, assume an adult driver gets pulled over by police for a simple DUI. No accident. No injuries. No property damage.
It starts as a class B misdemeanor based on a breath or blood alcohol concentration of .08.