DUIs by the Dollars - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

DUIs by the Dollars

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If you're heading out on New Year's Eve and don't have a plan to get home safe and sound, here's another reason to get yourself a designated driver or taxi service on speed dial: money. When it comes to DUIs, most of us only know the one number -- point oh eight. But as it turns out, when you blow past that all important legal blood alcohol limit, the other numbers really add up too.

"If you choose to decide that the precautions are just too much of an inconvenience, the law will not give you any special treatment," says Cass County prosecutor Leah Viste.

Viste says it's a two dollar a day fee for alcohol testing if you get arrested and opt to do a work release program to get you out of the jail after you've set bond, which allows you to drive even though charges are still pending against you. The program, called "24-7," requires you to pay for a breath test every twelve hours to prove you're not drinking. That costs a dollar a test, times the twelve weeks or so it typically takes for a drunk driving case to go to trial.

Then, Viste estimates, it will cost two to five thousand dollars to pay your attorney, depending on the lawyer's level of experience and experience with drunk driving cases.

Then, a 425 dollar fine, if it's your first offense. The state sets a mandatory minimum fine of 250 dollars, but Viste says she usually asks the court to impose higher fines than the minimum.

Then, add to that a two hundred twenty-five dollar legislative fee. Then you'll pay for a mandatory chemical dependency evaluation test, which offenders say runs about seventy-five dollars. The fine goes up systematically with each DUI you're convicted of.

"The thing that strikes me about it is that it's the most preventable crime there is," says Viste, noting that the real penalties come when you bring injury or fatality crashes into the offense. That can land you in the state penitentiary for five years -- and with that comes a whole host of financial woes in terms of lost wages while you're in prison. Most employers won't let you keep your job after a felony conviction, so add to that any potential lost income after you're released, given how hard it is to get many employers to hire a convicted felon.

Whatever it adds up to, here's the bottom line, according to Viste. "You don't get to do that. You just don't get to drink and drive."

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