Make Sure You Have Funds Available For All DUI Costs
Once you have been arrested for DUI-DWI, you face significant expenses throughout the litigation process. Few people have enough money deposited in their checking account to be able to pay all costs and expenses at once. Typically, fee payments and related expenses occur over the entire length of your case, which may take a year or longer.
First, you will likely have to pay to be freed from jail after your arrest by posting an appearance bond. Some people do this with a cash bond, while others pledge real estate as “security” to assure that you will return for court. Typically, the sheriff or a clerk’s office official will approve any such bonds that rely on the equity position in real estate that you have pledged. In a few states (e.g. Texas) a criminal defense attorney may be able to act as your bondsman.
Commercial bail bonding companies are an alternative to putting up your own cash or real estate. These businesses are paid a fixed percentage of the total amount as a “fee” for acting as your “surety.” These percentages typically run from 10% to 15% of the face amount of the bond. If you fail to show up for court, the bonding company may be required to pay the full amount into court and “forfeit” the amount of your bond.
If the bonding company’s “bounty hunter” can locate you, however, you will be physically arrested and brought back to face charges. By bringing you back, the bonding company avoids losing the bond forfeiture amount.
Second, you need to retain the best DUI-DWI specialist attorney you can afford. Much like choosing a medical specialist for the purpose of performing delicate surgery, choosing a DUI-DWI attorney should be made in much the same fashion. At stake is your freedom, your right to drive, possibly a job or marriage, all depending on the outcome of your case.
Third, you may be required to miss significant time from work during the days you will spend directly involved with your legal process. By carefully planning ahead, most of this time away from work can be covered by paid vacation time. If not, you still need to take the necessary time off to be able to defend your case. Other discretionary spending must be postponed until the case is over.
Fourth, in a typical contested DUI-DWI case, expenses will likely be added to the legal fees owed. Depending on the contract you signed with your lawyer, you may be expected to pay for investigators, accident reconstructionists, couriers, process servers, field sobriety experts and/or forensic experts to point out flaws in the police officer’s adherence to his or her training, to procedural issues relating to your arrest, or to testify about your breath or blood testing procedures.
Most of the top DUI-DWI experts will charge an initial fee to review the paperwork and any video recordings in your case. They may charge additional fees and request reimbursement for costs related to attending pre-trial hearings or trial such as needed to present your legal case. Your expert witness will be called upon to give his or her professional opinion about scientific or forensic issues that are critical to your defense.
Fifth, other expenses you may be expected to bear may include the cost for you to attend a DUI-DWI school recommended to you by your attorney. Also, you may incur some expenses out of your pocket for doing community service work or for cleaning up your driving record. Private alcohol or drug evaluation or treatment will also be a cost for you. If you have prior convictions or legal issues in another state, you may have to employ the services of an attorney in that state to track down certified records or copies of court documents that will be needed by your present attorney.
Finally, if worse comes to worse and you are convicted of a DUI-DWI offense, a monetary fine may be assessed that you will have to pay, either directly to the court or through your probation officer. Fines in DUI-DWI cases typically carry additional court costs and other “statutory surcharges” or assessments associated with being on probation. In some states (e.g., Texas and New Jersey) these costs can run into thousands of dollars. Other states (e.g., South Carolina) have an “integrated” automobile insurance system wherein every traffic violation, including DUI-DWI, leads to automatic increases in your insurance rates.
Considering all these expenses you face, it is best to look seriously at all possible avenues you have for generating the money you will need to cover these fees and expenses. Few people can simply pay for all of this out of their pockets. Many people have to borrow funds against their assets, or liquidate some assets to have money available. Some people have to borrow money from friends or family, or ask a family member to use his or her credit card to cover legal fees. Some will have to put as much as they can on credit cards, and then pay the balance over an extended time period.
It is best to start exploring all of these possibilities at the beginning of your legal process in order to be able to meet these costs as they occur.