DWI could cost $15,000 or more, attorneys say

By Chris Paschenko
The Daily News
Published December 31, 2009

Rolling the dice on whether to drink and drive tonight could cost more than $15,000 in fines, court costs and attorney’s fees, attorneys said.

Meanwhile, there’s a greater chance of being arrested for driving while intoxicated during the New Year’s holiday, as countywide law enforcement agencies step up patrols this weekend.

It’s a foregone conclusion that someone will be arrested on suspicion of drunken driving this weekend, defense attorney Tad Nelson said.

“They’ll be tons of people the next two nights,” Nelson said.

If you plan to go to trial, the cost could escalate another couple grand, Nelson said.

There are other items to fret about, such as fees, court costs, surcharges, increased automobile insurance premiums and the prospect of losing a job, attorney Dane Johnson said.

“One of the things is, if you’re going to have a lawyer, the average cost of a competent DWI lawyer is a minimum $5,000,” Johnson said.

A first-time conviction carries a maximum $2,000 fine, and a mandatory minimum $1,000 surcharge per year could be added to a driver’s license for three years, Johnson said.

There also is the risk of losing potential employment offers when the conviction appears on criminal background checks.

“The cost of getting arrested and the humiliation of going to jail and being locked up is huge,” Johnson said.

Authorities won’t participate in a “no refusal” weekend for New Year’s, but extra patrols will be out looking for weaving, speeding drivers.

When the “no refusal” weekend is in play, drivers suspected of drunken driving could have a court order signed for the forced removal of a blood specimen to determine the level of intoxication.

The legal limit for driving while intoxicated is .08 percent blood alcohol content.

The sheriff’s office will have extra drunken driving patrols and those reveling in Galveston will see more police trained in dealing with drunken drivers.

There will be a task force of officers supplementing the city’s normal patrols, Galveston police Capt. Jeff Heyse said.

“We’ll have up to an additional six officers on New Year’s, four on Friday and eight on Saturday,” Heyse said. “They’re DWI certified and can do all the standardized field sobriety tests.”