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If you've been charged with DUI (driving under the influence) or OUI (operating under the influence), you face a wide range of expenses: fines, drug and alcohol classes, increased insurance rates, and other penalties depending on the state issuing the ticket. If you choose to hire legal counsel, you will also have legal fees. These, too, vary greatly depending on the extent of charges you face and the attorney's fee structure.
Types of Fee Structures
Attorneys use two basic fee structures: hourly and flat rate. Lawyers charging hourly fees bill clients at a set hourly rate, typically between $100 and $300 per hour, broken into smaller increments (usually 10 minutes). Lawyers charging by the hour typically require a retainer for their services. In this event, payment for services is deducted from the retainer. Once the retainer is depleted, billing begins. In a flat fee system, your attorney charges a set rate for the entire process, no matter how much time he or she devotes to your case.
Hourly rates can add up quickly, especially if you hire a larger law firm as these typically charge higher rates. Under hourly schedules, you are charged for every phone call, every email, every filing, again in 10- or 15-minute increments even when the task takes considerably less time. On the other hand, a flat rate fee may be more costly than an hourly rate would have been if your case requires relatively little effort.
Costs Depend on Services Needed
Aside from the attorney's rates, this creates the widest variance in the cost of hiring a lawyer to defend you against DUI charges. Are you contesting the charges? Expect higher fees, as this requires preparing for a trial and time in the courtroom. If you're only looking for an attorney to negotiate a plea bargain (forbidden by some states' DUI laws), the cost is much lower.
Also dictating potential costs is the type of charges you face. Standard DUI (a blood alcohol content of 0.08 is the legal limit in all 50 states) charges are a different type of case for your attorney than felony DUI. And of course a case involving injuries or a fatality presents its own challenges. For example, you may face a manslaughter charge as well as the DUI charge. Essentially, the amount your attorney charges rises in concert with the charges you face. Additional services such as representation during a license suspension hearing also add to the attorney fees you can expect to pay.
Typical DUI Defense Costs
Though there is a variety in the costs and rates lawyers charge, there are some common guidelines to give you an idea of the fees you face if you hire a lawyer to represent you in your DUI case.
If this is your first DUI offense and you intend to plead guilty, expect to pay a flat rate attorney anywhere between $500 and $2,500, depending on the size of the firm and the lawyer's experience handling DUI cases. Additionally, some lawyers charge higher fees in order to represent fewer clients, devoting more time to each one.
If this is a second offense (or higher), expect $1,500 as the low end and upwards of $5,000 at the high end. Penalties for repeat offenders are higher and in most states a third DUI offense is a felony.
If you hire an attorney to fight your case and it goes to trial, expect to pay $2,000 at the minimum and all the way up to $25,000 or higher, depending on the complexity of your case and the charges you face.
Possible Additional Costs
Additional fees add to your overall costs. If you choose to fight your charges, expect to pay around $4,000 for expert witness testimony at your trial. Also, if there is a retrial or an appeal you pay more. If you are convicted, you face a range of fines and penalties which vary by state but start at around $300 for first offenses and up to $1,000 or higher in states with strict DUI laws. You also face higher car insurance, drug and alcohol counseling, traffic survival school (or similar), tow and impound fees. On average, a DUI costs the driver around $8,000.Contact an Attorney
If you face DUI charges, contact a criminal defense attorney for a free consultation. He or she will advise you what charges you can expect and the viability of your case.