DUI: The 5 biggest penalties if you're caught

Korrena Bailie

Some states call it driving while intoxicated (DWI), and others call it driving under the influence (DUI), but no matter what the title is, a driving while drunk charge remains extremely serious. According to a report by MSN Money, a typical DUI may cost up to $10,000. dui penalties

If you are under 21 and you have just one drink and then drive and you're caught, there is zero tolerance. Although states vary regarding what the charges are for a DUI, all states agree that if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 percent or higher, you are driving under the influence.

And if you're caught, expect a severe punishment.

Here are 5 ways you will pay the penalty if you're caught driving under the influence.

5 biggest DUI penalties

1. Fines

Every state charges different fines for a first-time DUI charge - but some states' penalties are much stiffer than others. In Texas, you could be fined up to $2,000 for a first-time offense. And if you happen to have a child passenger in the car with you, that fine may jump up to $10,000. In North Dakota, a first-time offense will leave you $500 out of pocket, or $750 if your blood alcohol level is 0.16 or greater.

Keep in mind that the minimum fine you are charged is only part of the picture. "DUI can include jail time and suspension of your license," said David Bakke, an insurance expert at Money Crashers, a personal finance blog. "Fines are high to deter drivers from breaking the law."

2. Ignition interlock

An ignition interlock is a device installed in a car's ignition that requires the driver to blow into it. If the ignition interlock detects alcohol, the car won't start. Fifteen states, including New York, Virginia and Washington, require drivers to install ignition interlocks for any DUI offense.

If you are charged with a DUI and you have to install an ignition interlock, this is another cost to add to your fine.

The cost of installing the device and the monthly fees vary. Installing the device costs about $200 (this may be more for luxury vehicles), and then you pay $50 to $100 a month in rental fees. You also will likely be charged maintenance expenses and fees to download the data from the device.

3. Losing your car

States typically won't confiscate your vehicle after a first offense. Twenty-six states, including, California, Florida, Massachusetts and Texas, may seize your vehicle if you are a repeat offender.

Whether your vehicle is confiscated permanently or temporarily, it's a costly endeavor. If your car is seized permanently, it will be auctioned off. If you are eligible to get your car back, you'll first need to pay storage, towing and administration fees.

4. License suspension

Forty-two states will suspend your license if you fail a breathalyzer test. For most states, this suspension ranges from one week to 6 months but Georgia's punishment is particularly severe - the state will suspend your license for one year if you're caught drunk driving.

Aside from the fine you pay for the DUI charge, losing your license can be costly as you may need to arrange alternative transportation to get to work, or for other driving tasks. Also, most states charge a license reinstatement fee - in Georgia, it costs $200 to get your license reinstated.

5. Skyrocketing insurance premiums

If you're convicted of a DUI, your auto insurance rates are likely to skyrocket. "There is no way to sugarcoat it. Your rates will increase dramatically after being convicted of a DUI," says Joel Ohman, a financial planner.

Also, if you're convicted of a DUI, your auto insurer may drop your coverage, or simply not renew your policy when that time of year rolls around. And when you shop around for a new policy, you will likely be considered a high-risk driver, which means that many commercial auto insurers won't offer you coverage. If that's the case, you may be able to buy costly auto insurance through your state's high-risk pool. The increased amount could be double, triple or quadruple what you were paying, says Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.

4 tips on how to avoid DUIs

Experts recommend that you should do the following in order to avoid getting a DUI:

  • Don't drink, take prescription narcotics or illegal drugs if you're going to drive.
  • If you do drink, limit yourself to one drink per hours, with a nonalcoholic beverage between drinks.
  • Don't mix medications with alcohol.
  • If you're going out in a group, make sure there's a designated driver - and "make sure you volunteer for that job when it's your turn," Bakke says.

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