How Much Does a DUI Lawyer Cost?

Criminal Defense Attorney Matthew

Matthew V. Portella, DUI Defense Attorney

If you’ve been charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), it’s common and understandable to wonder how much a lawyer will cost. Unfortunately, the answer is not simple and straightforward. When considering the costs of a DUI/DWI lawyer, here are three things you should consider.

  1. There is no hard-and-fast rule about how much a DUI lawyer will cost. Why? Because each DUI case is different and the cost of defending the charges will depend on how complex the issues are. For example, a simple case, such as a fender bender caused by mild intoxication, might receive the lightest sentence possible, and the cost may be very moderate. On the other hand, a complicated case, where a fatal accident occurred, will have significantly higher costs. Unlike simple cases with mild sentences, complex cases with more severe penalties typically require extensive investigation into the causes of the accident and vigorous litigation in the courtroom.
  2. Although the cost of each case can vary, an initial consultation with one of our attorneys is always free. We will review your case, listen to what happened and why, and advise you of your options.
  3. Perhaps the most important, when considering the costs of a DUI lawyer, you must recognize that not hiring a lawyer can cost you severely.

Not Hiring a Lawyer Can Cost You

In New Jersey, the penalties for a DUI/DWI are very steep, and may include fines, jail time, and suspension of your driver’s license. Vigorous defense by an experienced DUI attorney can help to lower the severity of penalties imposed against you.

For a first-time offense, fines can be as high as $400 if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 and as high as $500 if your BAC is 0.10 or more, or if you are convicted of driving while under the influence of other substances. Additionally, you will face around $3,500 in surcharges and other costs from the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.

It is important to understand that monetary fines are not the only costs you may face after being charged with DUI. You can be sentenced to up to 30 days in jail, ordered to attend an intoxicated driver resource center for a 12 hour alcohol evaluation, and required to install an ignition interlock device (“IID”) in your car, which will render the car inoperable if you try to drive after having a drink.

Wait, there’s more! Even for a first offense, your license will also be revoked for three months.

While hardship exemption programs, in many states, give individuals with suspended licenses permission to drive to work or school, it is important to know that New Jersey does not offer any program that allows you to drive while your license is suspended. A license suspension in New Jersey means you cannot drive. Period.

In other words, if you require a car to get to work and continue to earn money, a DUI conviction could potentially cause you to lose your job by hindering your ability to get to work. All of these penalties—fines, potential jail time, IIDs, and the length of license revocation—only increase with subsequent convictions.

In addition, a conviction for a DUI can also hurt your standing in the community, your job prospects, and more. But, a vigorous legal defense can save you from a court conviction, and thus save these costs.

4 Ways an Attorney Can Potentially Save You Money

Attorneys can help you if you’ve been charged with a DUI in several ways.

  1. We can make sure that your legal rights have not been violated. Before an officer can legally pull you over for suspected DUI, he must have probable cause. Understanding probable cause can be tricky, because it is defined by case law and depends on the circumstances of each case. Simply put, they must have seen something indicating you were driving under the influence, such as an open beer can in your vehicle when you were stopped for a routine traffic violation, or other indications of intoxication, such as weaving or driving erratically. If you were taken into custody, you should also be advised of your Miranda rights.
  2. We can investigate whether tests were administered properly. DUI is assessed via several methods in New Jersey. Officers can administer standardized field sobriety tests, which will assess such things as the ability to walk in a straight line or the ability to count backward. They can also administer a chemical test, such as a Breathalyzer, which measures BAC. While field sobriety tests can be done on the side of the road to provide a basis for probable cause, an officer’s lack of experience or training can lead to the improper administration of tests and incorrect results. Standardized field sobriety tests are established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Officers undergo specific training to learn how to properly administer the tests, and should receive periodic refresher training. If they do not, or an inexperienced officer administers the test, the readings can be incorrect. Breathalyzers (a machine called an Alcotest) chemically assess your breath. These, too, require specific training to administer. To accurately test BAC, the machine must be properly calibrated and administered within a certain time frame. Incorrect administration of the tests used to convict drivers of drunk driving can cause BAC readings to be incorrect, and an attorney may be able to challenge your DUI.
  3. We can investigate whether you have medical conditions or a prescription drug regimen that might have caused an inaccurate reading. For example, some neurological conditions can cause people to be unable to walk in a straight line, which is one of the accepted field sobriety tests. Prescription medication may also provide false readings. Incorrectly administered tests or possibly false readings can be grounds for asking for dismissal of the charge.
  4. If you were driving under the influence and it isn’t possible to contest the charges themselves, we can fight vigorously for the sentence to be the lowest possible. Because the penalties for DUI can have a range of personal and financial costs, a DUI attorney can help argue for minimum fines and minimal jail time. A just sentence can save you money. Accordingly, the correct answer to “how much does a DUI lawyer cost?” is: “Less than what not having one can cost you.”

If you require further information or counsel, an experienced DUI attorney can help you understand your options.

Law Offices of Matthew V. Portella 
25 Chestnut St Suite 2
Haddonfield, NJ 08033
(856) 310-9800

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