How much can a first-time DUI conviction cost?

Driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol can be costly, for you and everyone else on the road. A drunk-driving conviction can add up to thousands of dollars in fines and court costs plus other expenses, including increased insurance premiums.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, South Carolina ranks second in drunk driving deaths in the United States, with only Wyoming having more fatalities related to driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI).

What are the potential costs?

If you are charged with DUI, consumer website NerdWallet says you can face the following expenses if convicted:

  • Fines and court fees: For a first offense in South Carolina, a fine of $400 is the minimum, but with assessments and surcharges, the total is closer to $1,000. First-time offenders also face possible jail time of 48 hours to 30 days.
  • License suspension and reinstatement: South Carolina will suspend your license for six months and require you to pay a $100 fee for reinstatement.
  • Bond: You would likely spend the night in jail and post bond the next day, which can cost, on average, $500 to $2,000.
  • Ignition interlock: Those convicted of a first-time DUI can avoid South Carolina’s Ignition Interlock Device Program unless their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) registers above 0.15%. The device costs up to $150 to install and up to $80 per month.
  • Car insurance rates: Insurance industry estimates show a first-time DUI in South Carolina can raise rates by an average of 55%, or $758 per year. However, rates can also double or triple depending upon the circumstances, and insurers can deny renewing coverage.

Seek legal advice if you are charged with drunk driving

If you are charged with DUI, there are many options available for your defense, including whether the officer had probable cause to stop you or a field sobriety or Breathalyzer test were improperly administered. An experienced defense attorney here in South Carolina will work to protect your rights to help you understand the charges, and the legal defenses you are entitled to that can lead to charges being dropped or reduced penalties.

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