I was driving down the road the other day, and I saw a billboard that said something along the lines of “A $20.00 cab ride beats a $10,000 DWI.” This slogan rings true, and as a Raleigh North Carolina criminal defense attorney, I can tell you that the costs of a DWI are great, and they continue for quite some time after the court process is over.

Lawyer Raleigh, NC DWI Cost


First things first, what’s the difference between a DUI and a DWI? In stories told for generations, drunk driving resulted in a DUI, but now you’ve been charged with a DWI? What’s the difference? Is one more serious than the other? The simple answer to both of those questions solely depends on the state one resides in.

In general, a DWI is considered more serious, indicating that the driver was over the legal limit of alcohol. On the other hand, a DUI is used when the driver was operating under the influence of drugs or an intoxicant that could not be identified.

It’s pretty evident there is a difference between the two, but in North Carolina, there’s not. All driving charges under the influence of any substance are considered a DWI. No matter what an officer thinks the driver was under the influence of, the charge will always be a DWI.

What Are the Costs of a DWI?

The costs of a DWI start immediately after the arrest, the first being any bond that is required. This cost is usually very minimal compared to the others associated with a DWI.

Once you are charged, you lose your license for 30 days due to the civil revocation that is imposed when charged with a DWI. Under most circumstances, you are eligible for a pretrial limited driving privilege after 10 days of being charged with the DWI. To obtain this privilege, you must complete a substance abuse assessment, which will usually cost around $100, and you will also have to pay $100 to the court for the limited driving privilege.

This privilege will allow you to drive the remainder of the 30 days of your civil revocation. After the 30 days of your civil revocation have passed, you are eligible for license restoration from the court, but only after you pay another $100 to the court.

What Happens 30 Days After a DWI Arrest?

So 30 days have passed since you were charged with a DWI; you may have already hired an attorney, but if you haven’t, you are probably getting ready to do so. A reasonable attorney’s fee to handle a DWI is going to be around $2,500. After these above-mentioned fees, you may find there is a stall on the payment of costs while your case is going through the court process.

If you have a hearing and are found not guilty, then good for you. You are done paying costs for this DWI, so move on with your life and chalk this up to a lesson learned.

If you are not so lucky and are convicted of this DWI, then the expense of this crime is getting ready to really kick in.

Once convicted, you will be ordered to take the substance abuse assessment, unless you have already done so, and complete the treatment. The treatment costs can vary because the treatment is determined by the assessment, which takes into account your past drug offenses. The minimum someone would pay for their treatment would be between $150 to $200; however, someone could also have to pay significantly more than that if the assessment determines such.

If you have the option to do community service instead of active jail time, then you will have to pay the $250 community service fee. Yes, that’s right folks, community service is not free. The judge can and will assess a fine, which is at their discretion and depends on your sentencing level. The minimum is usually $100, but depending on the level, someone can be assessed as much as a $4,000 fine.

There is the mandatory $100 DWI fine added to the court costs, which are approximately $190. In addition to these mandatory costs, if you have a trial and your blood was drawn, there is the $600 lab fee; and if the chemical analyst is subpoenaed to testify, it is another $600 fee tacked onto the bill of costs.

Will You Lose Your License if You Have a DWI?

Now, at the same time that all of these expenses are being thrown at you, you have to surrender your driver’s license for a minimum of one year. If you are eligible, you can get limited driving privileges; but, yep, you guessed it, that is another $100 fee due to the court. If you are not eligible for a driving privilege, then I can’t imagine what you will have to pay someone to drive you back and forth to work or anywhere else you may need to go in the next year.

What Happens a Year After My License Is Revoked?

After your year is up, you are more than ready to go to the DMV and get your license back. For some, the only cost incurred at this time is the $100 restoration fee and the cost of a duplicate fee. For others, specifically those who had a blood alcohol content of .15 or higher, you have the previously mentioned DMV fees, plus the costs of interlock for at least the next year.

The interlock is a costly device that is installed for around $150, and then there is the monitoring fee that you pay when you have to go in for an interlock checkup.

Will a DWI Affect My Insurance Premiums?

Just when you thought the costs were coming to an end, you find that your insurance premium has increased about 400%, and that expense is there to stay for about the next three years. So you see folks, the expense of a DWI conviction is so much more involved than people realize. Taking a cab may seem like an inconvenience at the time, but it can save you thousands of dollars in the end.

Understanding a DWI and My Insurance Premiums

Understanding insurance isn’t easy for anyone. Do not feel alone if you feel lost in dealing with insurance companies. After a person is charged with a DWI, they’re definitely going to see some significant changes in their insurance.

If you’ve ever gotten a speeding or other traffic ticket, you know that your insurance goes up per month. Every ding on said insurance policy will continue to skyrocket those prices. These prices will vary based on any past driving violations and the overall conviction of your case. In some cases, you could be paying more than $700 per month compared to a person with a clean record.

How Long Will a DWI Remain on My Insurance? 

An extra $700 for a few months might not have the most considerable effect compared to other fees associated with the DWI. Unfortunately, in most cases, it’s not just a few months that these charges are spiked. It can take up to 10 years for a DWI to come off the insurance premium.

This no doubt depends on the insurance agency. In some cases, you’ll find the insurance to start going down within three to five years (still thousands of extra dollars in that time), but some insurance companies look at DWIs as major traffic violations and don’t take them lightly.

Tallying up the Total Cost of a DWI in NC

When it comes down to it, a DWI conviction is going to end up costing you a pretty significant amount of money. If you’ve been caught drunk driving and charged with DWI, then it’s time to look at this breakdown of your DWI charges.

  • Limited Driving Privilege: $100
  • Substance Abuse Assessment: $100
  • Drug Education Traffic School: $150–$200
  • Experienced DWI Attorney: $2500
  • Community Service Fee: $250
  • DWI Fine: $190
  • Overall Court Fee: Anywhere between $100–$4,000
  • Blood Alcohol Content Test: $600
  • License Restoration Fee: $100
  • Interlock Device: $150 + maintenance

These are just a few fees that should be expected in a DWI case and vary depending on:

  • Past Convictions
  • Criminal Record
  • Driving Record
  • Traffic Tickets
  • Overall Alcohol Assessment
  • Any Property Damage

In total, you’re looking at around $4,000 WITHOUT that court fee included.

Breakdown of DWI Costs 

So, we have a pretty basic understanding of what happens in those first 30 days after being charged with a DWI. But why are all of these costs adding up, and how can I avoid them? Here is a breakdown of each of the costs mentioned above. 

Court Costs

Court costs vary. They can be anywhere from $100–$4,000. A DWI is a criminal charge, meaning that you will have to appear before the judge, whether you’re going to plead guilty or not. After the initial appearance in court, the judge will determine the rest of the court fees. In most cases, they may average out to around $200–$500 depending on your initial plea. 

Hiring a lawyer will help you to understand and break down these court costs a bit better. It really focuses on a case to case basis; with a lawyer, you’ll be able to get the minimum court costs for your case. 

Other Sentencing Costs

Sadly, a DWI doesn’t stop at the court. Like we said before, you saw it on the billboard. Another one said something like, “You just blew $10,000.” That is in no way dramatized. The other sentencing costs can quickly spike the overall bill well into the high thousands. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind that will end up having quite the hefty price tag: 

  • Jail Fee

It does actually cost money to get yourself out of jail at the time of the arrest. This is before any court fees and is usually around $40. It’s important to note that this cost must be paid in cash and can vary depending on the severity of the charge.

  • Drug and Alcohol Classes 

In most cases, once convicted, you’ll be required to attend drug and alcohol classes to either complete probation or get your license back. On average, these classes in North Carolina can be completed with a 16-hour, in-person program that’s somewhere between $150 and $200. 

  • Ignition Interlock Device

In most North Carolina cases, an interlock system is only required if a person has more than one DWI on their record OR they had a BAC of over .15 on their breathalyzer test. You should be okay if it’s your first offense and you blew lower than .14.

If you’re required to get one, these costs will add up quickly. The installation fee is somewhere around $70–$200, depending on the company. BUT it doesn’t stop there. After the installation, the driver will be required to pay a maintenance fee that could be upwards of $60 per month.  

  • Probation Period

Unfortunately, even probation isn’t free. Probation varies again, depending on your charges, but in most cases, it’s somewhere between $1,000 to $2,000 in the state of North Carolina. 

How Can Hiring a DWI Lawyer Lower My Costs?

When it comes down to it, there are some things that just can’t be done on our own. Fighting a DWI is one of those. The system is complex.

You wouldn’t try to put your own braces on, would you? Probably not; you’d hire a professional. Someone that knows exactly what they’re doing. They know how to work out the kinks and fix the braces when they break. 

DWI lawyers essentially do the same. They can take a close look at what happened and find the loopholes. A good DWI lawyer not only knows the system but also knows how to work it. They’ll be able to obtain any crucial information about your case, such as:

  • Police reports from the incident
  • Any audio or video recordings
  • Any testing that was completed
    • Breathalyzer
    • Blood test
    • Urine test

These are crucial to getting your case to the lowest possible offense level. A good attorney will be able to do that. In most cases, they also already have good relationships built with the people in the court system. Therefore, they know what to say and what to have you say. 

So what exactly can a good DWI attorney get for you? We work tirelessly at Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutlet & Thomas, L.L.P to get the lowest possible sentencing. Hiring a lawyer will give you a better chance at the following: 

  • DWI charges were dropped

In this case, you’ll still be looking at some court fees and lawyer fees, but your insurance won’t be affected. That’s HUGE. You may still be required to attend a class or two and maybe some probation, but you’ll save a few thousand.

  • Negligent or reckless driving

Reckless and negligent driving looks much less intimidating on an insurance application. It might not save you quite as much as if the charges were dropped, but will definitely still save a significant amount. 

What Will a Lawyer Look at if It’s My First DWI Offense? 

Of course, a lawyer is going to do everything in their power to get you the lowest possible sentence. In the case of a first DWI offense, a few things are crucial to look at when putting together a case.

  • What was the reason the officer pulled you over?
  • Did the police actually have a viable, regulated reason to stop you? 
  • What made the officer arrest you? 
  • Were any of your constitutional rights violated? 
  • How did the officer proceed and follow up with the arrest? 
  • Was all of the documentation and paperwork filed correctly? 

All of these aspects greatly affect how your case will play out in court. Finding a DWI attorney to help you deal with all those questions is crucial.

Is a DWI Lawyer Worth It? 

The answer is no doubt, yes. Attempting to fight a DWI on your own will ultimately result in getting nothing except the maximum. Hiring a good, high-quality lawyer will get you the most out of your money.

Public Defenders are provided by the court in order to help fight a DWI conviction, and while the fees may be lower, the outcome won’t always be.

There is a science to fighting a DWI charge, and our guys have it down. Hiring a lawyer from a recognized law firm might be a better idea when trying to navigate the legal system.

Contact a DWI Lawyer in Raleigh, NC

If you have been picked up on a criminal law charge such as DWI in the Raleigh area and want to speak to an attorney, please call Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler & Thomas, L.L.P. at 919-615-2473 for our Raleigh office or 919-365-6000 to reach our Wendell office, or fill out the form below. We look forward to helping you with your legal needs!

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Information presented on this website should not be construed as formal legal advice or the formation of an attorney-client relationship.  Additionally, any email sent to Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler & Thomas, L.L.P. or any of its lawyers at the email addresses set forth in this website will not create an attorney-client relationship.

Jeff is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Raleigh. He has effectively represented the citizens of Wake County and all over North Carolina since 1989.

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