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.

8 thoughts on “The Bill for Driving While Impaired”

  1. Wou have calculated his outlays for the first year only.

    “If he paid $600 in annual insurance premiums before the DWI conviction, his premiums will now total $2,640.”

    That is the price hike in the first year alone. Over the next few years, while he slowly earns back his good reputation, there will be an higher-than-before premium each year.

    I don’t know the details of car insurance in the USA, to calculate it precisely, but I can imagine this doubling the costs calculated here.

  2. .08 means roughly 2 beers. Most people erroneously believe that 2 beers is a safe amount to drink before driving, especially if they wait a couple of hours after drinking before driving. It is safe in terms of not impacting your driving but unsafe in that the 2-beers-&-wait-a-couple-of-hours driver will blow over the legal limit and be faced with a DWI if he goes through a DWI checkpoint.

  3. Walter, as someone who has been involved in many drinking experiments I can tell you those would have to be some mighty big beers to get you to .08 in only two beers. I think you many need to recalculate the content of the beer and just how many it would take to get to an .08.

  4. Mr. Rand,
    You can’t possibly be suggesting that two beers can equal .08. An average 190 lb male that drinks two 12 oz beers and only waits 30 minutes to drive will only blow on average .03. Wait a few hours after drinking two beers and you would most likely blow double zeroes. You don’t get arrested for DWI by mistake. It takes a conscious effort to impair yourself and endanger the motorist around you.

    • Brett & Joe –
      You are way off. Two 12-oz. Natural Lights will put a 165-lb man over a .08 for several hours. Don’t believe the propaganda put out to justify such a low threshold. There is no way that a man just 25 lbs. heavier would blow a .03. That’s just too much of a difference. If the body weight difference were 250 lbs rather than 25 lbs it would make sense.


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