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What Is the True Cost of a DUI in Pennsylvania?

06 May 2024, by Madison Foltz in Criminal Defense, DUI
What Is the True Cost of a DUI in Pennsylvania?

Written by Timothy Czekaj

Pulled over for a DUI? Beyond the shock and immediate concern, a big worry on your mind is likely the financial fallout. While the fines and lawyer fees might seem daunting, the total cost of a DUI can be much more far-reaching.

As the expenses keep mounting, that split-second decision to get behind the wheel while impaired looks increasingly costly and can torpedo your financial stability. Here’s what you need to know about all the components that can add up to the true cost of a DUI in Pennsylvania.

DUI Fines by Type of Offense

In Pennsylvania, the fines for a DUI conviction can vary depending on the severity of the offense and the individual’s blood alcohol content (BAC) level. Here’s are the typical fines for a first-offense DUI according to state law:

  • General Impairment (BAC 0.08-0.099): This is considered an ungraded misdemeanor with a minimum fine of $300.
  • High BAC (BAC 0.10-0.159): This is also an ungraded misdemeanor, but the fines increase significantly, ranging from $500 to $5,000.
  • Highest BAC or Refusing Breath/Chemical Testing (BAC 0.16+ or Test Refusal): Similar to the High BAC category, this is an ungraded misdemeanor with fines ranging from $1,000 to $5,000.

Subsequent Offenses Bring Higher Fines

Subsequent DUI offenses come with steeper fines. For example, a second-time general impairment DUI can carry a fine of up to $2,500, and having a high BAC on a subsequent offense can result in a fine of up to $5,000 or even $10,000 in the most severe cases.

Fines also increase significantly for offenses involving aggravating factors like having a minor in the vehicle, driving without a license, or causing injuries/property damage.

Legal Fees

Hefty legal fees compound the financial burden of a DUI conviction in Pennsylvania. Court costs, expert witness fees (for example, blood test analysts or accident reconstruction specialists), and even investigative or transcription costs can add up quickly. That’s why consulting with a DUI attorney for a free consultation is crucial to understanding the total potential legal fees you might face.

You may wonder whether hiring a private DUI attorney is worth the expense, especially when you may have access to a public defender at no cost. However, public defenders often have high caseloads and may not be able to achieve the results you want for your case. Working with an experienced DUI lawyer who has handled many cases like yours gives you the best chance of getting your charges reduced or dismissed.

Additional Expenses of a DUI Conviction

Beyond criminal penalties and legal fees, being convicted of a DUI can incur a host of other costs, some of which you may not have considered.

High Insurance Premiums

A DUI can drive your car insurance premiums up significantly. Since a DUI stays on your driving record for several years, insurance companies may view you as a high-risk driver. This can easily double or even triple your insurance costs for years to come.

Getting Your License Back

Getting your license back after a DUI suspension comes with additional fees. You will receive a restoration requirements letter from PennDOT, which explains the steps you’ll need to complete to have your driving privilege restored.

Ignition Interlock

Under Pennsylvania law, use of an Ignition Interlock system is required for first-time DUI offenders with high BAC, repeat DUI offenders, and those who refuse chemical testing.

Installation and maintenance of an approved interlock device is required at the driver’s expense, which can add up quickly. PennDOT estimates the average cost of leasing an ignition interlock system is between $900 and $1,300 per year.

Court-Ordered DUI Program Attendance

DUI convictions often come with mandatory participation in alcohol highway safety school programs. These programs can cost several hundred dollars. Additionally, the court may order you to undergo drug and alcohol evaluation and treatment programs, which can incur further fees.

Long-Term Consequences and Financial Impacts

The effects of a DUI can extend far beyond the initial court costs. The conviction itself can stay on your record for years, impacting your ability to secure employment. Many jobs, especially those requiring driving privileges or a clean background check, may be off-limits.

Even for non-driving jobs, a DUI can raise red flags for employers concerned about liability or trustworthiness. This can lead to difficulty finding work or limitations on career advancement, impacting your long-term earning potential. Furthermore, the social stigma of a DUI can damage your reputation, potentially affecting professional relationships and even hindering business opportunities.

Call a DUI Lawyer at Czekaj Law Today

The true cost of a DUI in Pennsylvania extends beyond criminal penalties and fees, pervading many aspects of your life and finances long after the court case is resolved. The good news is that you don’t have to navigate this challenging situation alone. An experienced DUI attorney at Czekaj Law, LLC can be your advocate, fight for your rights, and potentially help you minimize the penalties and associated costs.

Don’t underestimate the value of legal expertise in protecting your future. Contact us or call 717-275-9770 today to schedule a free consultation.

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