How much does a DWI lawyer cost? It’s a common question for people accused of DWI in Texas. With court fees and fines adding up, it may seem pointless to spend money on an attorney. But investing in an experienced Texas DWI defense attorney can save you money, time, and hassle in the long-run.
The criminal penalties for a DWI or DUI in Texas are some of the harshest in the country, but the penalties do not stop in court, the Texas Department of Public Safety also imposes surcharges for anyone convicted of DWI. In Texas, the cost of a DUI or DWI can be staggering and leave you struggling to keep up financially. That is why you need an attorney who knows the DWI laws in Texas and the inner workings of Houston area courts. The cost of hiring a criminal defense law firm in Houston, Texas will be an additional DUI cost initially, but it can save you money and potentially get your case dismissed, thus saving your reputation and the stress of a criminal record. If you’ve been charged with a DWI or a DUI in the greater Houston area, call Blass Law or request a case evaluation and find out how we can help get the best outcome for your case.
DWI Court Fees and Penalties are Already so Expensive, Why Should I Hire a DWI Lawyer?
Texas state law establishes maximum fines for a DWI. Depending on your blood alcohol concentration (BAC), prior DWI record, and other aggravating factors, maximum fines start at $2,000 and can cost as must as $10,000. An experienced attorney who specialized in DWI defense can negotiate with prosecutors to secure minimum fines.
Even if a DWI case is a ‘standard first DWI’, the fines and penalties can be quite harsh. Expect a DWI attorney to highlight certain facts in your case such as, a defendant that has no prior DWI convictions, no aggravating factors such as an extremely high BAC are present, or if no accidents and injuries were associated with the alleged offense.
When multiple DWI offenses are being considered, an attorney is extremely beneficial in negotiating a reduction in the standard penalties by pointing out any mitigating factors. A private attorney (as opposed to a public defender) can give your case the attention it needs. And when it comes to plea bargaining with the district attorney for reduced penalties or handling jury trial proceedings, you’ll need the experience of a lawyer that knows what works and what doesn’t work in Houston area courts and concerning license suspensions.
DWI Lawyer Cost
Lawyer fees vary and some firms will charge a flat fee to cover all the work performed for standard DWI cases. Other attorneys have an hourly rate, which means your costs will vary depending on the severity of the charges and the legal strategies needed to prepare your defense. If your lawyer is able to get the best outcome for your case without a trial, then you can expect decreased legal fees.
Depending on the caliber of the attorney your hire, you can expect to spend between $5,000 and $10,000 for straight-forward case settled out of court and upwards of $15,000 for a more complex trial case with aggravating factors. While these fees may seem steep, consider the expenses a qualified attorney could save you, including:
- DWI and DUI fines
- Probation fees
- DWI bail costs
- DWI court costs
- Restitution amounts
- DWI license suspension
- Vehicle impound fees
- DWI insurance costs
- DWI surcharges
- Ignition interlock devices
In Texas, the court can (and usually will) assess fines on a person convicted of driving under the influence. The law establishes maximum fines, but courts and prosecutors have the ability to decrease these fines substantially. A qualified attorney, like Jay Blass Cohen, will first try to spare you the expense of a trial by negotiating with the prosecution. These negotiations can reduce your charges, thus reducing your fines, or reduce your fines in exchange for a guilty plea.
A first time DWI is classified as a misdemeanor and is punishable with up to 6 months of jail time and as much as $2,000 in criminal fines. But, higher blood alcohol content levels over the legal limit of .08% can also be a sentencing factor. On a first offense, you may spend several days in jail, but for multiple DWIs, this number could climb to several months or a year.
In Texas, a second offense DWI can come with fines of up to $4,000 and much longer jail sentences – from several months or a year. Drivers in Texas with 3 or more DWIs will face felony charges that can mean a suspension of driving privileges from 180 days up to 2 years along with jail sentences that can span several years.
It is often at the discretion of the judge and the negotiating skills of your lawyer that can reduce 3rd Degree felony DWI sentencing and fines. It is also possible that your lawyer can negotiate reduced penalties in exchange for court-mandated agreements that may also involve fees, such as:
- Reporting to a probation officer on a regular basis
- Performing designated hours of community service
- Paying a monthly supervisory fee of about $60.00
- DWI drivers education classes from $70 – $200
DWI Bail Costs
When you enter court for your bail hearing, it is up to the judge to determine the amount of bail which can range from $100 to $100,000 or greater. If you are facing misdemeanor charges and a first-time offense, expect a lenient bail judgement.
If there are aggravating offenses such as an extremely high BAC, multiple DWIs, or vehicular assault or manslaughter due to intoxication – expect a stiffer bail sentence. At that time, you or a family member can post bail or contact a bail bonding agency that will require assurance of the defendant’s appearing at all court proceedings.
DWI Court Costs
The defendant must pay for the cost to appear in court, even if it is for a bail hearing or an arraignment. If your case goes to trial or you need to make multiple court appearances, the amount of court costs for your DWI will only increase slightly. You can expect court costs for a DWI to range from $300 and possibly up to $500. Again, a qualified lawyer can help minimize these costs by negotiating your case without a trial or even getting your charges dismissed.
Anyone convicted of a DWI in Texas can expect to spend at least twelve months on DWI probation. During your probation you are required to pay fees that can range from $60 to $100 for each month of probation. Typically, you will also need to meet with a probation officer, which requires the additional expense of time away from work.
If you caused any property damage or bodily harm while intoxicated, the court may order you to pay restitution. DWI restitution costs vary depending on the severity of the damage or harm inflicted. Your attorney can advocate on your behalf to ensure your restitution fines correlate to actual expenses. Frequently the district attorneys try to get huge restitution amounts that have no basis in reality. Your attorney can also reduce your monthly restitution costs by negotiating the amount of time you have to repay the balance.
Since 2003, persons convicted of a DWI in Texas must adhere to the Texas Driver Responsibility Program which requires a $1,000 annual payment for three years – even for a first time DWI conviction. Other surcharges may also apply:
- $2,000 per year – BAC exceeded 0.16, or double the limit of intoxication
- $250 annually for three years – driving without a valid license
- $250 for three years – convicted of driving without insurance
DWI Insurance and Driving Costs
A DWI conviction will result in a higher premium for auto insurance because the driver is now determined to be a greater liability or risk. After your license has been reinstated, the state of Texas not only requires all drivers to carry a minimum of auto insurance coverage – it is mandatory before your license is reinstated after a DWI.
After a DWI conviction, you must obtain an SR-22 before your license is reinstated. This certificate is proof of Financial Responsibility Insurance and is a legal requirement for two years after the DWI conviction (and possibly up to 5 years for multiple DWIs). Expect an increase in your auto insurance premiums of $200 per year or more if you are required to obtain an SR-22. The cost for this financial responsibility certificate may be anywhere from $20 to $100 per month.
DWI License Suspension
When your license is suspended, you still have places you need to go. Getting to work, school, or the grocery store without a license in Houston is next to impossible. You will either need to:
- Rely on Houston’s public transportation, which though inexpensive is incredibly time consuming for most commuters.
- Ask friends and coworkers for rides, which leaves you at the mercy of another person’s schedule. What happens if they have an emergency or get sick? You can’t miss work for a week because you don’t have a ride.
- Take expensive taxis or rideshares, like Uber and Lyft.
These DWI costs can add up quickly! Even for a 30-day suspension, just getting around without your license can cost anywhere from $60 to $1,800 or more depending on your commute. An attorney can help you keep your license and save you the stress and expense of scrounging for rides.
Vehicle Impound Fees
Vehicles that are towed away and impounded by law enforcement will generally pay higher towing fees – between $200 and $400. Also, consider that for every day your car is held on the impound lot, you will be charged about $25 per day as storage fees. Impound costs can add up quickly so contacting a DWI lawyer as fast as possible is the best way to avoid compounding charges.
Ignition Interlock Devices
Depending on the number of DWIs or the person’s BAC level at the time of arrest, the courts may demand the driver to have an ignition interlock device that prohibits the car from starting prior to breathing into the interlock device. Similar to a breathalyzer, this device will test the alcohol levels in the driver’s system to determine if BAC levels are exceeded. Expect to pay a monthly fee of $70-$100 per month to rent this device. Sometimes, an attorney can negotiate so that you do not need to have the device installed, or reduce the amount of time you must have it.
How Much Does the Average DWI Cost in Texas?
The cost of a DWI in Texas can vary wildly depending on the severity of the charge, aggravating factors, and the criminal record of the accused. One of the most important variables in how much a DWI will cost you is the quality and experience of your legal representation. Hiring a skilled attorney will cost you up front, but will definitely end up saving you in the end. If you are facing DWI charges in Houston, Texas, don’t wait – call Blass Law today or request a case evaluation online.