In the St. Louis area and throughout Missouri this weekend many people will be attending New Year’s Eve parties and enjoying the company of others and quite possibly some alcoholic beverages. One thing to keep in mind over the holiday weekend, and throughout the New Year, is the cost of drinking and driving.
Putting aside the overall dangers of drinking and driving I wanted to provide a glimpse into just the financial costs of getting a typical first time DWI in the State of Missouri. Looking at just the costs of receiving a ticket for a DWI, one can easily see that the alternatives are much cheaper. Small disclaimer: all figure are approximations, every case is different, and no DWI case is actually “typical”. So take the numbers with a grain of salt and look at the bigger picture.
Typical Costs for a First Time DWI
Fines: up to $500
In Missouri your typical first time DWI is considered a Class B Misdemeanor, which carries with it a punishment of up to $500 in fines, as well as up to 6 months in jail. However, in most cases a first time offender will not receive a only a fine, and will typically be placed on probation for up to two years for the first DWI.
Court Costs: $100 or more
As with every court case, from simple speeding tickets to more complicated felony criminal charges, there will be court costs associated with the case that must be paid at the conclusion.
Probation Fees: $600
Most probation terms handed down by the court are for a period of 2 years. These individuals are normally supervised by a private probation company in the St. Louis area and thus, it is up to the individual to pay for such fees associated with the private probation office’s supervision.
SATOP: $505 – $1381
SATOP, or Substance Abuse Traffic Offender’s Program, is a typical requirement, not only of the probation handed down by the court, but also of the Department of Revenue in order to renew a license after a DWI suspension. There are multiple levels of SATOP that an individual can be placed into and the costs are dependent on which level is required.
A VIP program, or Victims Impact Panel, is also a typical requirement of probation.
Misc. Costs for the Criminal case:
Other costs associated with a DWI could include a SCRAM device required by the court during Probation which costs approximately $12 a day to use. The court may also require an individual to install an Ignition Interlock Device on his or her vehicle which can cost around $75 a month to use. In some cases, an individual arrested for driving under the influence or while impaired may also be required to pay a bond to get released from jail after being arrested. An individual’s car may also be towed adding storage and recovery fees to the costs of a DWI. Some individuals may also be ordered to do community service by the court which may take away time from work.
Misc. Costs Non-Criminal:
In addition to the criminal costs of a DWI, there are intangible costs which will impact an individual including:
- Lost wages due to court dates or jail time
- Insurance premiums increased
- Suspension of license, from 90 days to a year
- Cost of seeking transportation if license is suspended
Attorney Fees: from $1000 and up
Of course, we can’t forget about the Attorney Fees. A DWI is a serious and complicated charge. This is not a type of case that one would want to handle on their own. It is important that someone charged with a DWI seek the help of a qualified and experienced attorney. Of course, attorneys do not work for free, so this is another cost to be factored into the cost of a DWI.
TOTAL COSTS: At least $2500!
Looking at just some of the costs, including a small fine, probation, Level 1 of SATOP and the low end of the attorney fees, an individual is looking at costs of at least $2500. This is for a first time offense, no accident and no additional tickets being issued. Most first time DWI’s will cost much more than this. Meaning, that $8 martini you have to top off the night might end up costing a lot more in the long run.
Does this mean you can’t have fun on New Year’s Eve? Of course not! There are a variety of alternatives that will end up costing a lot less than receiving a DWI from your local law enforcement.
Taxi or Transportation Services: Extreme case: $140
“Taking a Cab” is probably the most widely used alternative to driving while intoxicated. Typical taxi fares can run between $10-$40 depending on the length of the ride and number of passengers, much cheaper than the $2500 costs of a DWI.
But let’s look at the extreme case: According to Google Maps, the distance to drive from the St. Louis Arch all the way out to Troy, Missouri in Lincoln County is close to 60 miles. Looking at some typical fares and rates around the St. Louis area, this 60 mile trip would run around $140 not including gratuity (and you better tip well for a 60 mile drive). So, even in an extreme case of downtown St. Louis to 60 miles away, an individual would save over $2300 by taking a cab home instead of receiving a DWI ticket.
Add to this fact that numerous companies are offering free taxi services on New Year’s Eve and it’s a no-brainer.
Hotel: Extreme Case: $259
Want to enjoy the New Year and have even less to worry about: book a hotel! With all the options of finding a hotel online now days it’s hard to tell you the typical price of a night’s stay. So, again, we’ll look at an extreme case: a 5 star hotel in downtown St. Louis. Doing a quick search shows the price of one night on the weekend to be roughly $259 a night. A stay at one of the nicest hotels in St. Louis nets a savings of roughly $2200 over a DWI ticket.
Bottom-line: Don’t Drink and Drive
The Costs of a DWI are NOT Worth it
Plan ahead this year and have a plan for getting where you need to be after the festivities are over. Spending a little more on your night out could save you lots of money, aggravation and embarrassment in the long run. More importantly, it could save your life or the life of another.
- by Raymond Chandler