The billboard shows a young man taking a breathalyzer test. It states, “You just blew $10,000.”
Truth or scare?
Depends on what you blow, your age and whether or not you’re a first offender or involved in an accident. You can be sure of one thing, though. “There are no zero days in jail,” says Chris McGowan, a Toledo attorney who has been defending drunk drivers for 23 years.
McGowan and other professionals consulted show that one drink over the line could cost you more than $10,000. A worst-case scenario puts the number at $14,762. An injury accident could push it higher, while a sympathetic judge or good lawyer could reduce it.
Let’s start with McGowan. He says a first time offender can expect a jail sentence of 33 days, 30 of which would be suspended upon completion of a three-day driver intervention program. Estimated cost: $350 to $380.
An alcohol assessment test cost $25 to $200 and, depending on the results, the judge could send you to treatment for 10 sessions at $180 a session. McGowan said some programs could cost less. One of them meets three times a week, three hours a day for 26 weeks. Now, ask yourself, how much is 234 hours of your time worth?
You likely will be placed on probation for one to two years. There’s a cost to that--$20 a month. That may be minimal but if you slack off on treatment, or reoffend, you’ll find yourself heading down that snake hole of darkness without a flashlight.
McGowan says in Lucas County you should also expect court fines between $375 to $1,075 and court costs of $108. License reinstatement runs $475. “Party plates” cost $25, should the judge deem embarrassment might wake you up.
Don’t bother adding up the dollars yet. The judge may order an ignition interlock system. Chalk up another $1,018 for installation and the monthly maintenance fees for one year. The Steinle GMC Chevrolet in Fremont installs and removes the system for $160 and Intoxalock, a system provider from Iowa, leases its unit for about $70 a month. The loss of money pales in comparison to the embarrassment and inconvenience of blowing into the system before starting your car. You should also be aware certain foods can trigger a false reading as well as mouthwash.. Try explaining that to the judge.
By now that $125 for a simple tow to remove your car from the roadside after you were escorted to jail in handcuffs looks like a bargain. But, a spokesperson for Pat & Son’s Towing says, don’t forget the $15 to $30 a day for vehicle storage. You can’t legally drive now so you’ll need to recruit two friends to pick up your car.
By the way, it’s good that you have friends because it will be 15 days before you can get driving privileges to go to work.
If you think these penalties are harsh but rare, think again. “This can all be on a first offender,” McGowan said. “It’s not uncommon. This happens every day.”
Now, if you think you’re being treated unfairly and you want to hire an attorney, McGowan warns there isn’t much leeway on simple cases and an attorney will probably cost you $350. Injure someone, however, and go to trial to mitigate your financial hit you can expect to pay $5,000 in attorney fees.
We’re not done yet.
Let’s look at insurance rates.
Joe Miller of First Insurance Group in Oregon says a standard policy for a 23-year-old male living in Oregon with a clean driving record and a 2009 Ford Fusion, 4-door, 6 cylinder motor, would pay about $2,224 annually. Add a DUI and that jumps to $2,474, an increase of $250 a year. If an accident is involved, the cost jumps to $2,882, an increase of $658 a year.
Miller says the DUI would put the driver into the “high risk” category. Consequently, the rate increase would stay in effect for five years, versus the standard three years for a driver involved in a non-alcohol related accident.
We’re fast approaching $10,000, depending on how much work you want your attorney to do. But, there are two more concerns: your image and life insurance.
Do you want to drive with “party plates,” blow into an ignition interlock system to start your car and depend on friends and family to ferry you around town?
Then, there’s the car to consider.
“Are you going to get a Corvette or the cheapest little putt-putt you can because you’re tapped out?” McGowan asks.
Joe Miller adds that life insurance for a 35-year-old male in good health costs about $108 a month for a $100,000 policy. The same policy for someone with a DUI in the past five years is about $185 per month, or an increase of $924 a year.
Granted, you may not need a $100,000 life insurance policy and you may be able to reduce or eliminate some of these costs, but the billboard is more truth than scare. McGowan leaves you with these words:
“What I’ve learned from my days in doing this is that it’s not even worth it. If you’re going to drink, get a cab.”