A Costly Decision

Police lights

“I don’t want to leave my car here overnight.”

“I’ve only had a couple of drinks; I’m fine to drive.”

“I don’t live that far. I can make it home.”

“I know how to drive after I’ve been drinking.”

“I don’t want to pay $40 for a cab.”

Excuses for driving after having a few drinks are as numerous as a bar’s cocktail list, but none of them can compare to the true cost of getting arrested for driving under the influence. The costs and trouble associated with a DUI can be staggering, and even on the first offense, the choice to drive after drinking can run into the thousands.

“From start to finish, you’re looking at a range of $1,500 on the low end to $15,000 on the high end,” said Noble McIntyre of McIntyre Law in Oklahoma City. “That’s just for a first-offense DUI that did not include an accident.” If you think a DUI isn’t a big deal because it’s usually a misdemeanor, think again.

The Breakdown

Dewayne Poor, another attorney with McIntyre Law, has seen numerous clients and friends run the gamut in dealing with a driving-under-the-influence charge. It’s not pretty.

After you are pulled over, arrested and charged, the costs begin:

•  Towing fees – $250 to $300

•   Impound fees – $50- to $100

•   Court costs – $1,000 to $2,500

•  Bail Bond – typically $300

“You will spend the night in jail—that’s not negotiable—and jail isn’t pleasant,” said McIntyre. Once released, you’ll have to go to court. From that point on, what the lawyer negotiates becomes your sentence. Depending on what the courts decide, you may be required to take a 13-week rehab course that costs approximately $500.

“You’ll also be randomly drug-tested, and that’s $35 to $50 per test,” said Poor. “If you complete the course and your drug tests come clean, you could have your charges reduced. But, the costs do not stop there. Your auto insurance is definitely going to go up, too.”

After the courts are done, you then undergo civil charges from the Department of Public Safety. “DPS is who decides if you get to keep your license or if you will be required to use an interlock system, which costs about $500 to install,” said Poor. “If you are required to have an interlock system (you blow into a machine before you can start the car), then that’s for six to 18 months. You’ll spend $75 a month to bring it in to have it checked.”

If you refuse the interlock system, your driver’s license is suspended for six months. The entire court and DPS process can take 16 to 24 months. During that time, you could lose your license, lose wages from lost work from having to attend rehab classes and more.

“That’s just for a first offense,” said Poor. “We aren’t even talking about aggravated DUI, which is a felony.” An aggravated DUI is when the blood/alcohol level is .15 or more. However, even if you are below .15, but you are involved in an accident, you will face jail time.

“If you get a second DUI, you’ll have to do everything you just did, but it will be double the cost and double the time,” said McIntyre. A third DUI is a non-aggravated felony.

The Tragic Costs

Heather Goff ParkerAfter about a week in a coma, Heather Marie Goff died two days before her and her identical twin, Kevan Maureen Goff’s 18th birthday on Aug. 20, 1981. Heather died due to the brain injuries sustained after a drunk driver traveling north on N. Western Ave., crossed over three lanes and hit Heather’s Volkswagen Beetle head-on. Afterwards, the drunk driver ran away from the scene before being apprehended by local authorities. She later only served two years in prison.

The Goff twins had graduated that May from Northeast High School, where Heather was known as a young actress who participated in plays and even directed a well-received musical. Kevan Goff-Parker said the loss of her twin sister devastated her and her family, especially since they and their big brother had already lost their mother at a young age.

“We helped to raise each other after our mother’s death,” Goff-Parker said. “We went through some very tough times growing up, but we made it because we were always there for one another. Heather’s journey and life touched many in our community, but because someone chose to drink and drive, she never had the chance to become the amazing woman I knew she would be and I feel eternally lost without her.”

Sadly, Kevan’s story isn’t uncommon. Consider these statistics:

•  In 2014, 9,967 people died in the US in alcohol-impaired crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

•  The 9,967 alcohol-impaired fatalities in 2014 accounted for about one out of three highway deaths on US roads.

•   There was an alcohol-impaired traffic fatality every 53 minutes in 2014.

•   There were 27 alcohol-impaired traffic fatalities every day on average in 2014.

“If you have an accident and injure or kill someone, you will go to prison,” said McIntyre. “I’ve seen death, and horrific, life-altering injury due to DUI. Juries will punish someone who killed someone while driving drunk. It’s the easiest case to win. They are mad, and they want to punish you. You’ve lost any sympathy with a jury.”

Each crash, each death, each injury impacts not only the person in the crash, but family, friends, classmates, coworkers and more. Even those who have not been directly touched help pay the $132 billion yearly price tag of drunk driving, according to MADD.

Suddenly, the excuses people make for driving while under the influence don’t sound so smart after all.

“It’s all about safety,” said McIntyre. “Be safe, be smart and make good decisions. You can’t afford to take chances.”

For more information, visit www.madd.org/drunk-driving.

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