What Is the Potential Financial Cost of a DWI?

The financial consequences of a DWI in Texas can be steep. In Harris County and the Greater Houston area, probation fees, court costs, interlock rental fees, probation fees, attorney’s fees, and increased car insurance rates can quickly add up to a small fortune. Indeed, the best way to minimize the financial impact of a DWI is to avoid getting a conviction in the first place. This article summarizes some of the costs and fees associated with a DWI in Texas.

Fines

Fines are authorized by law and vary depending on the level of the offense. It is important to note that if your case is dismissed or you win at a trial, you will not pay a fine. If you get convicted of a first time DWI, the maximum fine is $2000. For second DWIs or first time DWIs with high BACs, the maximum fine is up to $4000. Felony DWIs carry fines of up to $10,000. In most cases, however, the fines actually imposed by a judge upon a conviction in a DWI case are around $500-1000 or less. Separately, Texas law allows for court costs to be assessed to anyone convicted of an offense. Typically, court costs actually assessed are less than $500.

In addition, Texas Transportation Code Chapter 709 requires courts to impose a fine “for offenses relating to the operating of a motor vehicle while intoxicated.” These fines are substantial and many attorneys are not aware of them. The fine is $3000 for the first conviction within a 36-month period, $4500 for a second or subsequent conviction within a 36-month period; and $6000 if the alcohol concentration is alleged to have been 0.15 or higher. Although the Transportation Code allows the fees to be waived in some circumstances, the requirements are strict and require a person to be indigent.

Electronic Alcohol Monitoring

In some cases, like DWIs involving a high blood alcohol level or subsequent offenses, a judge will be legally required to order that you obtain electronic alcohol monitoring as a condition of bond or probation. If a judge orders this, the device will usually have to be rented from a private company. The rental fees for monitoring devices are typically around $100 a month, in addition to an installation fee of approximately $100. If you are required to get a SCRAM device (which stands for “secure continuous remote alcohol monitor”) that can cost upwards of $300 a month. Additionally, there could be supervision fees while on bond or probation. Supervision fees while on a bond are usually around $50, while fees while on probation can be close to $100 a month.

Attorney’s Fees

Attorney’s fees can vary dramatically based on the experience and reputation of the attorney. Budget DWI attorneys can charge as little as $1000 per case or charge a low amount per court appearance. But like many things, you pay for what you get. It is generally very risky to save money on a lawyer, particularly in a criminal case where your record and possibly your freedom are on the line. Far too often, an inexperienced DWI lawyer will do little more than help you sign your plea paperwork. An experienced DWI attorney will charge anywhere from $4000-$20,000 for a first time DWI. For subsequent offenses or felony DWIs, that amount can be significantly more.

Pre-Trial Intervention Fees

If you have never been arrested before, a program called DWI Pre-Trial Intervention (DWI PTI) may be an option for you in many Texas counties to keep a DWI conviction off of your record. DWI PTI is a program that is essentially a contract with the District Attorney’s Office that will result in the dismissal of a DWI if certain conditions are met. This program is not available in all counties and the requirements vary where it is available. The program’s conditions typically include alcohol-related classes, community service, and an ignition interlock. Additionally, there can be fees required before starting the program. These fees can quickly add up. In Harris County, the DWI PTI program can cost around $3000 to complete, though your attorney can petition the District Attorney’s Office to waive some fees.

Car Insurance Rates

As you can imagine, a driver that has been convicted of DWI is a big liability for a car insurance company. Upon conviction for a DWI, the conviction will appear on your driving record and you can expect your car insurance rates to rise, often dramatically, for several years. On average, you can expect your car insurance rates to go up anywhere from 13% to 40%, depending on several factors, like your age and your driving history. 

Professional Consequences

The professional consequences of a DWI are much more difficult to assign a dollar figure to. A DWI conviction could mean the end of your driving career if you are a pilot or a CDL holder. However, many self-employed individuals will not be professionally affected by a DWI. Most people fall in between these two categories and could be affected by a DWI conviction professionally by making it harder to get a job or professional license.

Attorney Jose Ceja has helped hundreds of Texans successfully keep a DWI off their record in the Greater Houston area. Jose Ceja understands the intricacies of defending a DWI and can advise you on the potential consequences of a DWI. Call Ceja Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation.