The Bill for Driving While Impaired

A DWI conviction will cost you.

Let’s take the case of a typical defendant who has never before been charged with or convicted of DWI. I’ll call him Forrest Firsttimer.

Forrest is arrested at a DWI checkpoint. He submits to a breath test, which reports an alcohol concentration of 0.08. Forrest is taken before a magistrate for an initial appearance. The magistrate revokes Forrest’s driver’s license for a minimum period of 30 days and releases Forrest on his written promise to appear. Eleven days later, Forrest applies for a limited driving privilege pursuant to G.S. 20-16.5(p). A district court judge issues the privilege. Forrest is required to pay a $100 processing fee to the clerk upon its issuance. That’s the first item on Forrest’s bill.

1. $100 processing fee for pre-trial limited driving privilege (G.S. 20-20.2)

Then, at the end of the 30-day minimum revocation period, Forrest must pay $100 to end the civil license revocation.

2. $100 for return of license civilly revoked (G.S. 20-16.5(j))

Forrest hires an attorney to represent him in the impaired driving case. The attorney charges Forrest a flat fee of $1,000.

3. $1,000 in attorneys’ fees

Forrest pleads guilty in district court. He is sentenced at Level 5, placed on 12 months of supervised probation, and is ordered to pay a $100 fine, to perform 24 hours of community service and to obtain a substance abuse assessment and complete the recommended education or treatment.

Forrest now must add the following items to his mounting bill:

4. $100 fine (G.S. 20-179(k) (permitting fine of up to $200 for Level 5 DWI))

5. $290 in court costs (This figure includes (i) the $190.00 standard costs amount for a Chapter 20 misdemeanor (G.S. 7A-304(a)(1) – (a)(4a), & (a)(9)) plus (ii) the $100.00 special costs amount for persons sentenced under G.S. 20-179 (G.S. 7A-304(a)(10))).

6. $480 in probation supervision fees (G.S. 15A-1343(c1) (establishing supervision fee of $40 per month))

7. a $250 community service fee (G.S. 143B-708(c))

8. a $100 fee to the agency that assesses his substance abuse problem (G.S. 122C-142.1(f))

9. $160 for the alcohol and drug treatment school ordered as a result of the assessment (G.S. 122C-142.1(f))

Forrest’s driver’s license is revoked for one year upon his conviction. G.S. 20-17(a)(2); G.S. 20-19(c1). He applies for a limited driving privilege at sentencing. Upon its issuance, he is required to pay $100.

10. $100 for post-conviction limited driving privilege (G.S. 20-20.2)

When the revocation year expires, Forrest will be required to pay $100 for the restoration of his driver’s license.

11. $100 license restoration fee (G.S. 20-7(i1))

Forrest’s bill now totals $2,780, but we haven’t taken into account one of his largest expenses—his increased automobile liability insurance. A DWI conviction results in 12 insurance points. That translates to a 340 percent increase in the cost of his coverage. If he paid $600 in annual insurance premiums before the DWI conviction, his premiums will now total $2,640.

11. $2,040 in increased insurance premiums

In total, Forrest’s DWI has cost him $4,820.

And his bill doesn’t include many of the substantial charges assessed in some impaired driving cases. Those include the $600.00 lab fee in G.S. 7A-304(a)(7) or (a)(8), the $600.00 lab analyst testimony fee in G.S. 7A-304(a)(11) and (a)(12), jail fees of $10 per day for pretrial confinement and $40 a day for imprisonment under a split sentence (G.S. 7A-313), and the costs of ignition interlock and continuous alcohol monitoring.

All this makes cab fare look pretty cheap.