Every DWI case is unique and should be treated as such. Without a detailed intake interview, it is hard to tell just how much it will cost. The most important consideration is your lawyer's fee. From $500 to over $10,000, there is a wide variation that makes it hard to tell what you should be paying. There are a few key considerations, and they are detailed below.
You will face quite a few expenses in addition to a lawyer's fee. These include fines, SATOP and VIP fees, police recoupment, and probation costs. These can, of course, vary from case to case, but below you will find enough information to get a general idea of what additional costs you may encounter.
Your Lawyer's Fees
Despite the variability from case to case, it is possible to give a rough estimate for DWI attorney fees. For a simple first-time offense, you can expect to pay between $2000 and $5000. Anything that complicates the case, such as injury or death (particularly to law enforcement or emergency personnel), a blood alcohol content greater than .18, other tickets received at the same time, or prior DWI offenses, can raise the cost. Every DWI attorney offers free consultations. Don't hesitate to contact one to discuss your case and get a price.
Every DWI has two parts: the criminal case and the license suspension from the Department of Revenue. You have either 15 or 30 days after your arrest to contest the license suspension, depending on whether you took the breath test. If you hire an attorney quickly after your arrest, they will be able to fight the license suspension, but it will cost more. It shouldn't cost a lot more. The investigation the attorney makes to construct a defense for the criminal case will examine the same facts that are relevant at the license hearing. Still, the hearing itself takes extra time and, on some occasions, can involve quite a bit more work.
When you get a quote from a lawyer, make sure you know what you are getting for your money. Ideally, you should be paying for an experienced attorney who will thoroughly examine all the evidence and identify any discrepancies that need to be looked at in more detail. You should feel confident that you paid the attorney enough to investigate anything that doesn't look right aggressively. If you have unlimited resources, you can pay for a “no stone left unturned” defense. Your attorney can hire multiple experts and depose everyone associated with the case hoping that something turns up, but this can easily cost $10,000 or more. Talk to a few attorneys and get a feel for how they will approach your case. You should be able to find someone who can give you effective, efficient representation in that $2000 to $5000 price range.
It is pretty much a guarantee that you will be required to complete a Substance Awareness Traffic Offender Program if you get arrested for a DWI in Missouri. SATOP is a program that offers education, counseling, or treatment to anyone arrested for a drug- or alcohol-related traffic offense. The Department of Mental Health charges $375 for the screening they use to determine which level of treatment you must take. They are:
- The Offender Education Program is a 10-hour educational course primarily for first offenders that is designed to assist participants in making better choices with alcohol and driving with the goal of eliminating repeat offenses. The cost of the program is $200.
- The Weekend Intervention Program is for those with a prior DWI or whose screening results indicate a drug or alcohol problem. The program is conducted on-site, usually from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, and consists of 20 hours of education and counseling. The cost is around $475.
- The Clinical Intervention Program is a 50-hour outpatient counseling program. It generally takes around six weeks and consists of intensive group and individual counseling to address serious dependency issues. The cost is about $1000.
- The Serious and Repeat Offender Program is designed for those with previous drunk driving offenses. It is an outpatient program with at least 75 hours of treatment over a minimum of 90 days. The cost is $1500.
The cost for most of these programs is income-based, so if you don't make a lot of money, you will not have to pay the full price.
Surprisingly, the fines for a DWI are usually not too expensive. If you hire an experienced lawyer, they will likely be able to get you a suspended sentence unless there are aggravating circumstances. There are no fines with a suspended sentence, just court costs. Often, however, there are companion tickets like speeding, improper lane use, failure to signal, etc. The fines for these will be assessed as usual and can add up quickly. A good rule of thumb is around $225 per companion ticket.
Believe it or not, if you get arrested for DWI in Missouri, you will often be required to “pay” the police for your arrest. This recoupment usually costs between $100 to $200. Most of the cost is for the officer's time, with a few miscellanea like a fee to use the breath test machine or a booking fee thrown in.
Outside of lawyer's fees, the most significant expense in a Missouri DWI is probation fees. A typical first offense will result in two years of probation with a $30 per month intervention fee. This fee does not include the cost of an ignition interlock device or an alcohol ankle monitor. Because each case is different, it is hard to say if or for how long either of those may be required. Ignition interlock costs around $100 to $150 to install and $75 to $100 per month. The ankle monitor is considerably more expensive, up to $100 per week.
It is difficult to fully account for all the small fees that may or may not accrue with a DWI. Some of the more common are a $45 license reinstatement fee, $75 for a victim impact panel class put on by MADD, and the increased cost of carrying SR-22 automobile insurance. There are wildly divergent prices for mandatory insurance, from reasonable to exorbitant, so shopping for a good deal can save some money.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, there are a lot of variables that can determine how much you will pay for a DWI. Best case scenario (absent a dismissal), let's say you pay $2000 for a lawyer, $575 for the SATOP assessment and class, $250 in fines and court costs, $150 in police recoupment, $1000 in probation fees, and $250 in miscellaneous fees/extra insurance premiums. You might be able to have a first-time DWI cost you a little over $4000. Any part of that equation, except maybe the police recoupment, can be much more.
The best way to keep the cost of a DWI from spiraling out of control is to hire an attorney you trust. An experienced attorney who has handled plenty of DWI cases and knows how to get results can make a huge difference. Give Ruth Beerup a call at 636-940-1111. She has the experience to give you a great result at a reasonable price.