Getting a DWI doesn’t cost the same for everyone – but in Texas they’re always expensive. We’ll break down the potential costs for you in this post and tell you what the law says.
Don’t Believe the Cost Hype… Or Maybe You Should
Awhile back there was a TxDOT billboard near Austin proclaiming that a DWI in Texas costs $17,000. The link on the billboard told the story of a woman who was arrested for DWI. She lost her drivers’ license, spent half a day in jail, was ordered to serve 100 hours of community service and was subject to two years of probation. She also had to take alcohol education classes as part of her sentencing.
In the video, the woman also pays attorney fees, court costs, vehicle towing services, and bail bonds. Her checkbook register shows a negative balance of over $17,000.
That’s a terrifying story, but it’s also just that – a story. An independent research team looked into it and discovered that the woman’s story is fiction.
Don’t rest easy, though. While their research found that her story was made up, they also learned that the $17,000 figure was based on a 2006 study commissioned by TxDOT. The study included 30 interviews of DWI offenders, county clerks, defense attorneys, and prosecutors in 15 different Texas counties.
The report from these interviews says that first-time DWI offenders can expect to pay anywhere from $5,000 to $24,000 in total costs, and that the true average cost is somewhere around $13,000.
That’s a scary number, but perhaps the most frightening one is $19,000. That’s the difference between the highest and lowest costs they mention, and your cost can fall anywhere in that range.
Oh, it’s also important to note that loss of income, the cost of alternate transportation while your license is revoked, higher insurance rates, and counseling fees are not included in the figure. Ouch.
How Do You Prepare for the Cost? Learn the DWI Laws in Texas
Unfortunately, you can’t know exactly what you’re going to have to pay for your DWI. However, there are some basic numbers that you can get from official sources.
A first conviction for DWI will cause you to lose your license for up to one year. You may be ordered to spend between three and 180 days in jail and pay a fine of up to $2,000. To retain your driver’s license, you will be required to pay an annual fee of $1,000 to $2,000 for three years.
Basic Cost: $5,000-$8,000
A second conviction for DWI will cause you to lose your license for up to two years. You may be ordered to spend between one month to one year in jail and pay a fine of up to $4,000. To retain your driver’s license, you will be required to pay an annual fee of $1,000, $1,500 or $2,000 for three years.
Basic Cost: $7,000-$10,000
A third conviction for DWI will cause you to lose your license for up to two years. You may be ordered to spend between two to 10 years in prison and pay a fine of up to $10,000. To retain your driver’s license, you will be required to pay an annual fee of $1,000, $1,500 or $2,000 for three years. If you have two or more DWI convictions within a five-year period, you will be required to install an ignition interlock device that allows you to drive only if your BAC is below a set limit.
Basic Cost: $13,000-$16,000
Seek Legal Counsel for a Texas DWI Charge
All these big numbers making you feel a little anxious? They should.
Remember that a charge does not equal a conviction, though. When you speak with an experienced Texas criminal attorney, he or she will be able to go over the facts of your case and lay out the potential options that are available to you.
They will help you put together the strongest possible defense, enabling you to minimize costs while providing you with the best chance to get your charges reduced, dropped, or dismissed.
Get in touch today for a free consultation.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.