How much does a DWI (driving while intoxicated) lawyer cost? It’s a common question for people accused of DWI in Texas. With court fees and fines adding up, spending money on an attorney may seem pointless. But investing in an experienced Houston DWI Lawyer can save you money, time, and hassle in the long run.
The criminal penalties for a DWI or a DUI (driving under the influence) charge in Texas are some of the harshest in the country, but the penalties do not stop in court. Additional fines for DWI convictions range from $3,000 to $6,000. These additional fines replaced the surcharges that used to be imposed by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
How can a Lawyer Help You Build the Strongest Case Possible?
In Texas, the cost of a DUI or DWI conviction can be staggering, leaving 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 initially be an additional DUI cost.
However, it can save you money and potentially your reputation and the stress of a criminal record if the case is dismissed or reduced. Other reasons to hire a lawyer include that they can:
- Negotiate and communicate with the court and all other involved parties
- File a request for an administrative license hearing
- Inform you of your legal rights and options to fight every aspect of the case
- Fight to have the case dismissed or reduced
- Serve as your advocate and provide guidance throughout your case
- Inform you of any negotiated plea deals or similar developments in your case
If you’ve been charged with a Houston 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. For instance, we could argue that you would benefit from classes offered by the Harris County Community Supervision and Corrections Department or community service instead of jail or prison time.
When Court Fees and Penalties are Already so Expensive, How Could You Afford to Hire a Lawyer?
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 you hire, you can expect to spend between $5,000 and $15,000 for a straightforward case settled out of court and upwards of $20,000 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 forfeiture impound fees
- DWI insurance costs
- DWI fines
- Ignition interlock devices
Your Lawyer may be Able to Argue Your Charges or Penalties Down
When multiple DWI offense classifications are being considered, an attorney is extremely beneficial in negotiating a reduction in the standard penalties by pointing out any mitigating factors. An experienced attorney can give your case the attention it needs.
And when it comes to negotiating a good plea bargain agreement 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 has knowledge of the law concerning license suspensions).
What are the Maximum Fines for a DWI in Texas?
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 much as $10,000. An experienced attorney who specializes in DWI defense can negotiate with prosecutors or judges 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 that you are 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.
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 plus a $3,000 DWI fine. But, higher blood alcohol content levels over the legal limit of 0.08% 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.
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.
DWI Fines Depending on the Offense
Beginning September 1, 2019, persons convicted of a DWI in Texas have an additional DWI fine to pay:
- $3,000 for a first offense DWI in a 36-month period
- $4,500 for a subsequent DWI in a 36-month period
- $6,000 if the driver’s BAC was greater than or equal to 0.15
Additional Offenses Come with Higher Consequences
In Texas, a second offense DWI can come with fines of up to $4,000 plus a $6,000 DWI fine and much longer jail sentences – from several months or a year. Drivers in Texas with three or more DWIs will face felony charges that can mean a suspension of driving privileges from 180 days up to two 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 Third 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 ranging in price 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 amount. The Judge may grant a personal bond, where you are released from jail without paying a bond amount.
If there are aggravating offenses such as an extremely high BAC, multiple DWIs, or vehicular assault or manslaughter caused by intoxication – expect a higher bail amount. At that time, a friend or a family member can post bail or contact a bail bonding agency that will charge a percentage of the bond amount and require assurance of the defendant’s appearance at all court proceedings.
DWI Court Costs
If a defendant is convicted of DWI, 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 usually remain the same.
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 Houston 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 might 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.
Sometimes, the district attorneys try to get huge restitution amounts that are based on an estimate of the cost for repairs and not the actual costs. Your attorney can also reduce your monthly restitution costs by negotiating the amount of time you have to repay the balance.
A DWI Conviction Could Raise Your Insurance Costs and Result in Other Unforeseen Penalties
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 is reinstated, the State of Texas will require you to carry a minimum of auto insurance coverage – it is mandatory.
How does the SR-22 Requirement Work?
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 five years for multiple DWIs).
Expect an increase in your auto insurance premiums each year. SR-22 insurance varies in cost. The cost for this financial responsibility certificate may be anywhere from $20 to $100 per month.
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
Owners of 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 legislature and/or courts may demand the driver to have an ignition interlock device. This prohibits the car from starting prior to said driver breathing into the interlock device. Interlock is a fancy word for a breathalyzer, this device will test the alcohol levels in the driver’s system to determine if a person has consumed any alcohol.
Expect to pay a monthly fee of $70 to $100 per month to rent this device. Sometimes, an attorney can negotiate so that you do not need to have the device installed, or can reduce the amount of time you must have it.
Hiring a Lawyer Could Help Preserve Your Quality of Life
DWI and DUI charges can endanger your quality of life and the quality of your family members’ lives. Your job and reputation are on the line. Hiring a lawyer could allow you to protect what is important to you. Lessened charges could reduce the blow this potential charge could have on you. You might not know how to argue for such penalties on your own. Turn to a legal professional.
Contact an Attorney for Help Today
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 upfront, 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. We can only start working on your behalf when we know all the details of your circumstances.