Friday, December 1, 2023

Here’s how much you’d have to cough up after drinking and driving

(WYDaily file photo)
(WYDaily file photo)

You’d never do this but home isn’t too far and you haven’t had that much to drink anyway — until there are blue lights flashing in the rearview mirror.

No matter how much, nor how little, a driver tests over the legal limit during a field sobriety test, there are both monetary and personal costs associated with drinking and driving.

Before even being convicted in court, Nate Green, commonwealth attorney for James City County, said anyone arrested for a DUI or driving under the influence, goes to jail and will have to pay the standard $2,500 bond to get out.

Even if the court finds the alleged drunk driver “not guilty,” Green said that person would never see the $250 again, “you’ll never get that money back from a bondsman.”

“Even if we are talking about that innocuous individual who was just swerving a little bit on the road, didn’t hit anybody or cause an accident, but just the police stopped them before any of that could happen, the costs to the offender are absolutely significant,” he said.

On top of that, Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles automatically administers a seven-day driving suspension for anyone arrested and charged with a DUI making it a little tricky to get to work Monday morning.

“The court will give some latitude for driving during work but to say that it won’t affect your ability to work is very naive,” he said.

Court costs and fees, lawyer fees, and significant increases on car insurance policies aside, Green said the consequences will reverberate into even a first-time offender’s day-to-day life with court-mandated classes and restricted driving privileges.

After being convicted of a DUI, there’s a 12-month probationary period when Green said the offender completely loses driving privileges unless the court issues a “restricted license” allowing the individual to commute to and from work so long as they have an ignition interlock monitoring system installed for at least six months.

An ignition interlock device is a car breathalyzer with a camera that requires the driver to blow a legal blood alcohol level before unlocking the ignition and allowing the vehicle to start.

“Our job as the monitoring agency is to ensure the client is sober and not operating a motor vehicle without clearing the device for six months without violations. If there is a violation, the clock starts over,” said Rohan Williams, executive director for the Peninsula Alcohol Safety Action Program or ASAP.

Williams said courts mandate either ASAP sessions as part of the convicted person’s probationary period which costs about $400 without driving monitoring services or further treatment recommended by the client’s assigned case manager.

However, if the client is granted a restricted license, Williams said ASAP provides monthly interlock system monitoring for $50 and a list of local companies that rent, install, and forward the monthly reports downloaded from the devices to the organization.

In Newport News and Hampton, prices from five interlock system companies averaged at about $100 for the system’s installation but could go up to $300 depending on the type of vehicle it needs to be installed on.

Also expect to pay close to $95 every month for a Virginia state fee and the interlock system company to conduct monthly calibrations and computer report downloads.

“We have to go through and check pictures and readings from the system monthly for violations and if there are we refer the client back to the courts,” Williams said.

And, while the offender is back in court, one ignition interlock company said they’ll charge an additional $85 “service lockout fee” and a $50 violation fee.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 10,500 people nationwide were killed in drunk-driving crashes in 2018 — 839 of those people were lost during the month of December.

“During the Christmas and New Year’s Day holiday periods in 2018 alone, there were more drunk-driving-related fatalities than during any other holiday period that year,” said Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police. “These fatalities are preventable, and drivers must remember that driving impaired by any substance — drugs or alcohol — is deadly, illegal, and selfish behavior.”

The total at the end of it all is in the thousands of dollars and counting depending on the circumstance but Green also said some costs to drinking and driving are immeasurable.

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“We’re going to hope all that happens is someone gets pulled over by the police as opposed to the police responding to a car upside down on the side of the road…or to a horrible accident where a drunk driver has injured someone else,” he said.

Virginia State Police recommended in a recent news release designating a sober driver or plan to use public transportation or ride sharing service to avoid drinking and driving.

Police also said to dial #77 or 911 should you see a drunk driver on the road.

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