Special Report: The Cost of a DUI - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Special Report: The Cost of a DUI

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With the same amount of money, you can buy 524 gallons of milk, 474 gallons of gasoline, and 529 pounds of ground beef.

The cost of a DUI changes based upon certain variables: the number of offenses; how many people were injured; whether the driver refuses a breathalyzer test.

13 News spoke to experts in our area who estimated the price of a first-offense DUI for a driver older than 21, in a situation where no one gets seriously injured.

"Everyone knows it's against the law to drink and drive, but nobody knows the consequences," said DUI instructor Katy Saine, with the Prestera Center, a nonprofit organization committed to providing behavioral health services to people in our region.

Towing costs easily amount to at least $200, according to Chris Reed, the owner of Charleston Auto Towing.

"If you get caught drunk driving and your car gets impounded, you'll pay much more than what you paid at the bar," Reed said.

Depending on one's blood alcohol content (BAC), offenders could pay up to $1,000 in fines, face up to six months in jail, and see their driver's licenses suspended for up to 45 days.

To get the license back, an offender needs to take a DUI safety class. Saine said these six-week courses can cost up to $600.

That puts the preliminary bill at $1,800.  This precludes costs associated with bail bonds or attorney fees, which can cost thousands of dollars, depending on the lawyer. Other experts estimate a DUI can cost anywhere between $2,000 and $10,000, depending on these variables.

Additionally, a first-offense DUI could cause the average person's car insurance to increase anywhere between 18 and 25 percent, according to an insurance agent with Ramsey Insurance of West Virginia, located in Charleston.

Saines said the ramifications shoot far beyond the bank.

"'We don't just don't lose our driver's license," she said. "There's money, time, loss, stress, possible loss of employment."

Getting a DUI could jeopardize your next job or the one you already have.  Jean Hawks owns Fort Hill Child Development Center in Charleston.  She said seeing a DUI on anyone's application makes her think twice about the candidate; seeing several is a deal breaker.

"You don't want a problem with substance abuse with an employee, and I would think more than one DUI indicates there could be a substance-abuse problem," Hawks said.

Jeremy Binion used to drive drunk a lot.  More times than he can count on all his fingers and toes.  Recently, he almost paid the ultimate price for driving under the influence: his life.

"You may go out and drink and drive and be fine," Binion, 29, of Saint Albans said. "But all it takes is one time."

On Easter morning, Binion got behind the wheel after a night of partying.  He wrecked his vehicle near Strawberry Road in Saint Albans, too hurt to move. Hours later, a couple on their way to church saw Binion trapped in his car and called 9-1-1.

Binion faced two DUIs before the age of 23.  He did not face charges after his wreck in March. His near-death accident convinced him to never drive drunk again.

"Many things could happen," Binion said. "You may not kill yourself.  You may kill somebody else.  Than you have to deal with that for the rest of your life."

The legal limit for drunk driving is a blood alcohol concentration of .08. Several police officers said it's possible to arrest a driver who tests under the limit if he or she seems truly impaired and dangerous.

Data released from the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicle indicates that more than 3,300 people have been arrested for impaired driving so far in 2013.

Visit this website to see a complete list of penalties associated with driving under the influence. Depending on the circumstances, offenders could pay up to $5,000 in fines and face up to three years in prison.