If you have been charged with a DWI in Houston, Texas, you face more than a potential jail sentence. A DWI conviction can leave you with economic and non-economic costs that will follow you for years. Fines, court costs, and other fees can eat away at your savings. What's more, a DWI conviction can severely hamper your ability to make a living going forward. An experienced DWI attorney may give you the best chance of avoiding or limiting the economic and non-economic costs a DWI can cause.
The Economic Costs of a Houston, TX DWI
Without a doubt, a DWI conviction in Houston can be hard on your wallet. Many first-time DWI offenders don't realize just how costly a conviction can be. Those costs only go up with multiple DWI offenses or with intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter cases. All told, you could face bills totaling tens of thousands of dollars by the time your case is completed. The cost of pleading guilty to a DWI can easily exceed the cost of successfully fighting a DWI. Many people wrongly believe they cannot beat their case so they look for the most affordable lawyers to work a plea deal. Being convicted for a DWI generally ends up costing more in the long run than hiring an experienced and reputable Houston DWI attorney to fight and avoid a DWI conviction.
Court Costs, Fines, and Restitution
When it comes to a DWI conviction, costs, fees, and restitution can add up quickly. One of the first costs you will be responsible for upon a DWI conviction are the court costs of your own case. You're on the hook for these costs whether you plead guilty at your arrangement or take the case all the way to trial. The costs can vary depending on the court, but range from a few hundred to over one thousand dollars.
On top of paying for the costs of your court hearings, the judge can also assign punitive fines designed to punish your conduct and incentivize better behavior. Fines for a first-time DWI offense can go up to $2,000, while second-time DWI offenders may have to pay up to $4,000. The fines go all the way up to $10,000 for intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter.
In some cases, you may also be ordered to pay restitution for any injuries or property damage you caused while driving under the influence. In addition to the payments made to the victims, the court often assesses fees for processing and tracking your restitution payments.
There are also probation fees to consider. While not everyone goes to jail on a first-offense DWI, probation is mandatory in every case. Probation can last between six months to multiple years depending on what you've been charged with. By that time, you shouldn't be surprised that you're on the hook for all of the costs associated with your own probation. Fees can be as much as $100 per month, which can really add up over time.
Driver's License Fees
One of the costs that really surprises many convicted of a first-time DWI is the Texas Driver Responsibility Program Fees. These are "license renewal surcharges" issued by DPS--not the court. If you are convicted for DWI, Texas DPS requires you to pay an annual surcharge to the state for three years in order to have to your license reinstated. For first-time offenders, the fee is $1,000 a year. Second-time offenders will pay $1,500 per year for a total of $4,500. And if you registered a blood alcohol concentration of .15 or more, your fees are a painful $2,000 per year. The final bill of $6,000 is enough to buy a used car.
Alcohol Treatment and Interlock Devices
There are also a number of requirements related to consuming alcohol that may be handed down by the court. You may be required to participate in an Alcohol Education Program, with the costs to be paid by you. These programs can cost between $70 and $200.
In some circumstances, a judge may order you to install an interlock ignition device in your vehicle as a condition of having your license reinstated. An interlock device operates as a breathalyzer, only allowing you to start your vehicle if your BAC is 0.0. These devices can cost up to $100 per month to operate.
Increased Insurance Rates
An indirect cost that you may encounter is an increase in your car insurance bill. To reinstate your license after a DWI conviction, you must show the state proof of minimum liability coverage. These coverage rates are typically higher than the minimum rates most people face. The proof of insurance, known as an SR-22 form, is a red flag for your insurer and will lead to you being labeled as a high-risk driver. The end result for you is significantly higher insurance premiums.
Impound and Towing Costs
There are a number of loose ends related to your vehicle that have to be tied up when you've been arrested for DWI. If you were unable to find a sober driver to take your car, you may also have to deal with the towing and impound costs for your vehicle. The cost of towing your vehicle from the scene of the arrest to the impoundment yard can cost you anywhere between $250 and $500. On top of that, there is a daily charge of up to $20 for each day your vehicle is impounded. The longer you are in custody, the higher these charges will be.
Finally, you will have to pay your attorney to help coordinate your legal defense and help you navigate the criminal justice system. While your total legal fees can vary depending on the circumstances of your case, you can expect these fees to be in the thousands.
There are two common ways for an attorney to charge you for his representation: hourly rates and flat fees. An hourly rate involves the attorney keeping track of how much time is spent on your case down to the minute, then billing you for that time. Attorneys working on a flat fee won't track the hours spent on a case and will simply quote you a single price for handling the case in its entirety. For some attorneys, flat fees can operate on a sliding scale depending on how much work goes into the case. For instance, some attorneys that work on a flat fee will charge one rate if the case ends in a plea bargain but will charge a higher flat fee if the case goes to trial.
The Non-Economic Costs of a Houston, TX DWI
A DWI conviction is rough on your bank account, but not every cost you face will involve dollars and cents. Your life and livelihood can be greatly affected.
A DWI Conviction can have a major impact on your ability to keep or find work. It's not uncommon for employers to require applicants to disclose any criminal convictions and many run thorough background checks. DWI arrests can set you apart from other applicants in a bad way; why would an employer hire someone with a criminal record if they can get someone with similar experience that has a clean record?
You could face even more employment problems if your ability to drive is suspended or limited, especially if your line of work requires travel, deliveries, or operating a company vehicle.
What's more, a DWI conviction can cost you any professional licenses you have. If you work in a field where a license is required -- e.g., a pilot, nurse, or medical professional -- you may find yourself looking for a new career. And while a DWI conviction won't automatically bar you from applying for professional licenses in the future, it's not uncommon that the governing bodies that grant these licenses may turn you down based on your criminal record.
Loss of Driving Privileges
Most of us take the ability to drive for granted. The convenience of high mobility can be taken from you in a snap with a DWI conviction. Multiple convictions can cause you to lose your ability to drive forever. Being reliant on others for transportation can be costly and can greatly impact your quality of life. Travel can become impossible and your work can be greatly impacted. Relying on free rides, taxis, or rideshare apps can be stressful and inconvenient.
Voting and Gun Ownership Rights
Many of the rights you enjoy as a United States citizen can be curtailed upon a felony DWI conviction. For instance, upon conviction for a felony DWI, you will lose your right to vote. Convicted felons are also barred from owning firearms. While it is possible to have your voting rights and -- to some extent -- your right to own and use a firearm restored after your sentence is complete, the process is long, costly, and not guaranteed to be successful.
The Importance of hiring the Best DWI Attorney in Houston
If you are facing DWI charges in Houston, don't hesitate to contact Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. Doug Murphy is a trial lawyer through and through. Some defense attorneys approach each case hoping the client will settle for a quick, easy plea bargain. Doug Murphy approaches his cases differently by preparing every case as if it were going to be tried by a jury of your peers. Doug knows the costs of a potential DWI conviction are daunting and treats his clients with compassion and respect.
When it comes to building your defense, Doug Murphy has the experience and training necessary. Doug is highly qualified, serving as one of only two attorneys in Texas that is a Board Certified expert in both DWI defense and criminal law. If you would like Doug Murphy to put his experience to work for you, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm today for a free consultation.