Many people underestimate the true cost of a DWI in Texas. The truth is that offenders can face costs totaling up to $20,000 or more. But that’s not all. A DWI conviction can permanently damage your reputation, career, and personal life.
Here are some direct and collateral expenses that a DWI will generate:
- Bail bonds
- Court costs
- Legal (including lawyer) fees
- Probation fees
- Restitution fees
- Increased insurance rate
- Vehicle towing
The exact cost each DWI offender can expect to suffer will differ depending on their circumstances, but in all cases, a conviction will cause permanent and irreparable damage. For example, a DWI can stop you from advancing in your career and earning a higher wage later in life. It can affect custody rights and personal reputation.
All this might seem hopeless and frightening, but with the help of a good attorney, it is possible to fight a DWI in Texas.
Cost of Hiring a DWI Attorney
If you’ve been arrested for DWI in Texas, you need a DWI attorney – one who has experience with DWIs and preferably has several years of experience under their belt. The cost of an attorney can vary wildly depending on several factors, ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 for a simple case. For a complex case that goes to trial, costs can rise up to $10,000.
The first thing you should be aware of is that different law firms have their own payment structures. While some lawyers charge an hourly rate, others might ask for a one-off fee.
Level of Experience
Attorneys who specialize in DWIs and have a proven track record of success over many years will likely charge higher rates. These lawyers are often passionate about succeeding in every case, and they often provide a more personal service.
Big law firms may offer a cheaper service, but they often churn out cases like a mill. The result is that their employees are overworked, overstressed, and underpaid, and in the end, they treat their client’s cases with apathy.
The complexity of Each Case
Simple cases, for example, a 1st DWI with no complications will likely require less work, and fewer hours to solve, which in turn will cost you less.
A complex case that involves enhanced offense charges, a case that requires court appearances, and a trial will require more work from your lawyer. They’ll need to take time to build a strong case for you, which will cost more.
You Get What You Pay For
As much as the adage “you pay peanuts, you get monkeys,” may be cliched, there’s a lot of truth in it. Too many defendants fall for the notion of going with “cheap”, only to pay a much heavier price later when the case goes on to fail! A bad lawyer can end up costing you more than a good one.
Larger, law firms might offer to handle your DWI case at cheaper rates, but they’ll also usually treat your case like another number in the pile, as though your life means little more than a neat folder and a quick paycheck. For them, your case is no different from the DWI that came in the day before, or the day before that, and so they’ll apply the same formula every time. Not all large firms are like this, but it is a trend we’ve noticed.
Other law firms, like Michael & Associates, may charge more, but they’ll fight as hard for you as they would for their own case. With a good law firm, you can expect a personal experience, such as a direct line of communication with your lawyer at all times.
At Michael & Associates, we know that you’re already in a very stressful situation, and so we’ll treat you, and your case, with the same level of care, respect, and dedication, that we would our own. While cheap lawyers might keep you in the dark, we will keep you updated at every step, take time to talk you through the process as transparently as possible, and tailor our approach to your specific case and circumstances.
Overall, the cost of a good DWI lawyer could be significantly less than the cost of a DWI conviction.
Penalties of a DWI
DWI penalties differ depending on the number of previous offenses, and several other factors, but here’s a simple breakdown.
For 1st Offence:
- Up to $2,000 fine
- Up to 180 days in jail
- Loss of driver’s license for up to a year
For 2nd Offence:
- Up to $4,000 fine
- Up to 1 year in jail
- Loss of driver’s license for up to two years
For 3rd Offence:
- A $10,000 fine
- Up to 10 years in jail
- Loss of driver’s license for up to two years
There are additional instances that could increase the cost of your DWI.
If you are caught driving under the influence with a child passenger under the age of 15, you will be charged with child endangerment. This will elevate your charges from Class A or B misdemeanor to a felony.
You could face an additional fine of $10,000, imprisonment for up to two years, and the suspension of your driver’s license for another two years.
Even if you are entirely sober, carrying an open container of alcohol in your vehicle is illegal, regardless of whether the car is parked, stopped, or on the move. Unless the container of alcohol is stored in a locked glove compartment or in the trunk, you can expect another $500 fine in addition to any DWI fines.
So far, we’ve only paid attention to the cost of fines brought on by DWI convictions, but the consequences of a DWI conviction will outlast even the heftiest of fines.
Additional Costs of a DWI
Beyond the cost of legal defense and fines associated with a conviction, there are a number of costs that come with a DWI in Texas.
Administrative Fees, Fines, and Court Costs
If convicted of the DWI, all administrative and court fees are passed onto the offender. While these expenses differ, they could cost up to $1,500. In Texas, the court will also issue a state fine, which is determined during sentencing. The state fine could be an additional $3,000, $4,500, or $6,000.
Criminal Record (Misdemeanor or Felony)
One of the most damaging penalties of a DWI conviction is the permeant stain that offenders receive, in the form of a criminal record. Many people mistake a DWI to appear as just a traffic violation, but the truth is that drinking while under the influence is a crime, and as such when a potential employer runs a background check, a DWI will show up as a criminal record.
If someone convicted of a DWI is filling out an employment form, they must answer “yes” to the question, “Do you have any criminal convictions?”
A criminal record will damage some careers more than others. For example, if your career involves working with children or vulnerable people, or if it involves driving, the use of a company vehicle, or operating machinery, a DWI record will significantly harm your chances of getting employed.
It’s not just employers who run background checks. Potential landlords, homeowner’s associations, and banks may do so too.
Community service might seem like a walk in the park when compared to the financial implications of a DWI, but it is a penalty, nonetheless. Depending on the circumstances, an offender may be required to perform up to 200 hours of community service.
Ignition Interlock Device
An ignition interlock device is a breathalyzer that’s installed into your vehicle – in most cases, you’ll have to pay for them, and they’re not cheap. Ignition interlock devices are used to measure the amount of alcohol in your breath before allowing the car to start. If your Breath Alcohol Concentration exceeds the legal limit, the device will temporarily prevent your vehicle from starting.
In most DWI convictions, an ignition interlock device is a requirement for up to a year after the end date of your suspension period. Most people find interlock devices inconvenient, as well as embarrassing.
Alcohol Education Program
If your driver’s license has been suspended, you will be required to pay a $100 Reinstatement fee in addition to other outstanding fees at the end of the suspension period, if you wish to drive again.
An SR-22 certificate, or a Financial Responsibility Insurance Certificate, is proof of state-monitored liability insurance, provided by an insurance company.
If you have a DWI record, you will be expected to purchase an SR-22, also known as “high-risk” coverage, for two years, from the date of your conviction. The certificate is there to verify that you are maintaining motor vehicle liability insurance that meets the state laws.
SR-22s are not offered by every insurance company, which will reduce your chances of shopping around.
Insurance Premium Increase
Depending on the severity of the circumstances of a DWI, your auto insurance may automatically be canceled. In most cases, the insurance company will simply raise your premium.
According to an online insurance comparison site, The Zebra, A DWI conviction in Texas will on average raise your annual insurance premium by around $762.
If your license was suspended due to a DWI, you’ll need to purchase “high-risk” coverage that meets the minimum liability coverage laws for Texas:
- $30,000 for bodily injury to, or death of 1 person in a crash
- $60,000 for bodily injury or death of 2 or more persons in a crash
- $25,000 for damage or destruction 3rd party property in a crash
If you find yourself in jail for DWI, you, or your family, can post bail, allowing you to go home and return for your court appearances. The cost of a DWI bail bond will depend on various factors. For example, if this is a repeat offense, if you have previous convictions on your record, this would increase the cost of bail.
Other factors that could increase the cost of bail include:
- Willingness to carry out a Blood Alcohol Test
- If you are deemed violent or at high risk of fleeing the state
- Other offenses were committed during the DWI incident, including intoxicated assault.
For first-time DWIs, the cost of bail could be anything between $200 and $1000, however, the judge has total discretion over the exact cost.
Vehicle Impound and Towing Fees
If you’ve been arrested for DWI, your vehicle has likely been towed and impounded. Depending on your vehicle, the cost of towing could be between $250 and $450, and the impound fee around $20. In addition, you’ll probably be required to pay an extra charge for each day that your vehicle is stored at the impound lot.
Non-Financial “Costs” of a DWI
Some costs of a DWI, like emotional damage, harm to mental wellbeing, and embarrassment, are not easily quantifiable – after all, how do you measure the cost of sleepless nights or anxiety? The permeant implications of a DWI might crop up at unexpected times throughout your lifetime, like when you’re applying for a new job, a loan, or looking for a business partner.
Is the Cost of a DWI Attorney Worth it?
DWI attorneys are expensive, especially good ones. But a DWI conviction is significantly more so.
Attorneys who specialize in DWIs have seen hundreds of cases like yours. They know the law better than anyone, they know your rights, and they know that a DWI conviction is not inevitable! DWI lawyers can negotiate on your behalf – they’ll fight your corner for the best possible outcome.
Pleading guilty to all charges will likely cost you thousands of dollars, not to mention all the long-term, lasting damage that will follow you throughout life. If you’ve been arrested for a DWI, call a DWI attorney now, so you don’t have to face the judge alone.
Summing Up: What’s the Total Cost of a DWI in Texas?
The truth is that a DWI in Texas will cost you between $2,000 and well over a total of $20,000, and the repercussions are long-lasting. Aside from the direct costs, including fines, penalties, and state fees, there are other costs to consider, like insurance premiums and the cost of DWI Intervention Programs.
While a DWI attorney might seem expensive, they could help you avoid the cost of a DWI conviction and reduce your charges to a minimum.
In short, doing nothing is the most expensive thing you can do!
If you’ve been arrested for a DWI in Texas, call Michael & Associates now for a free case review.
Ben has worked on thousands of cases ranging from DWIs to assault, drug possession, and many more. He has gotten hundreds of charges dismissed and pled down several hundred more. Among many other awards, one of the Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorneys in Texas and winner of Top 40 under 40.