If you are currently facing drunk driving charges in Pennsylvania, you are likely exploring your options and trying to decide what to do. You know you should have an attorney to represent you, but you may wonder how much a DUI lawyer costs in Pennsylvania — and whether you can afford it.
A better question may be, “Can you afford not to have a DUI lawyer?”
A Pennsylvania drunk driving conviction means potential jail time, large fines, and suspension of your driver’s license. A DUI conviction also means you will have a permanent criminal record. The direct costs of a DUI in Pennsylvania can add up quickly when you consider all the factors involved. And, when you add in the secondary costs, handling a DUI without a lawyer may become a very costly mistake.
How much are legal fees for Pennsylvania DUI lawyers?
Every attorney has his or her own fee schedule and hourly rates, but these rates vary based on several factors. For example, a named partner in a high-profile law firm will likely charge more than attorneys with their own, smaller firm. Taking your case to trial will cost more than accepting a plea bargain or going through a diversion program.
The consumer services matching provider, Thumbtack, estimates that the national average cost for a DUI lawyer ranges from $1,025 to $2,950, with a median cost of $1,740. Personal finance website, Nerd Wallet, estimates basic legal fees of $1,000 for a simple DUI case.
To determine what your legal fees might be, talk to a local DUI lawyer in Pennsylvania. All lawyers you speak with should be open about their fee schedule. But first, consider what a drunk driving conviction might cost you if you do not have an attorney.
What are the fines for a DUI conviction in Pennsylvania?
Monetary fines for a Pennsylvania drunk driving conviction depends on whether it is your first, second, third, or fourth offense. The amount of your fine will also depend on your blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of arrest.
You can view the entire DUI penalty matrix below. However, even a first-time DUI in Pennsylvania can carry a $5,000 fine. Second and subsequent convictions carry fines up to $10,000.
The potential fines associated with a Pennsylvania DUI are daunting, but they are not the only costs associated with a drunk driving conviction.
What are the other direct costs of a Pennsylvania DUI conviction?
In addition to the pre-established fines associated with a drunk driving conviction, you will also be responsible for court costs. Although the exact amount of your Pennsylvania DUI court costs will vary based on location, these fees could exceed $1,000.
Lancaster Online listed some estimated DUI costs, as provided by the Center for Traffic Safety and the Pennsylvania DUI Association. Although these are rough estimates, they provide a realistic picture of the other direct costs that you may face if arrested for drunk driving.
Towing & Impound $100 to $1,200
Substance Testing $250
Alcohol Treatment $150 to $2,000
Monitoring device $400 per month
Ignition interlock $1,200 to $2,000 per year
If you qualify for an accelerated rehabilitative disposition (ARD) program, you can expect to pay $2,500 or more for the program and another $600 upon completion, when you request expungement of your record.
You will have to pay additional fees for restoring your driver’s license and for attending DUI education courses, if your sentence requires you to attend.
What are the secondary costs associated with drunk driving in PA?
Depending on the circumstances of your conviction, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) may suspend your driver’s license for up to 18 months. If you need to get to work or school, a doctor’s appointment, or the grocery store, you will need to find alternative transportation — and cover the associated cost.
And, if you have to miss work for court or if you have no way to get there, you can add any lost wages to your total cost.
A DUI conviction will remain on your record permanently. Consequently, it will show up every time someone runs a background check on you. If a background check is necessary for future employment, your conviction could cost you that new job. Potential landlords may decline your rental application for the same reason.
Getting car insurance will be difficult, if not impossible, with a DUI conviction on your record. According to consumer cost research done by Value Penguin, Pennsylvania car insurance rates are twice as high for drivers with a DUI conviction on their record than they are for those with a clean driving record.
Can you reduce the high cost of a PA DUI conviction?
You may have some options for reducing the cost of your drunk driving charges, such as participation in an ARD or Pennsylvania Drug Court program.
Although both ARD and drug court will cost about the same as a conviction, your secondary costs will decline. If you complete your program, you can petition to have your record expunged. However, these options are usually only available for first-time offenders who meet all the requirements — and a judge must approve your application for participation.
If you can convince the prosecutor to reduce the charges against you or drop the charges completely, your fines and associated costs may decrease substantially. Likewise, if you go to court for your DUI charges — and win — you can avoid all the fines and most of the associated costs.
Unfortunately, unless you understand Pennsylvania laws and legal procedures, you probably cannot handle this yourself. This is where a Pennsylvania DUI lawyer comes in.
Is it time to find a Pennsylvania DUI lawyer?
Taking on the legal system alone can lead to the maximum potential penalties. Having an attorney will help protect your legal rights and offer you the best chance of an improved outcome.
If you are concerned about the potential cost of a Pennsylvania DUI lawyer, consider the cost of a conviction. Clients are often surprised to learn how affordable an attorney’s services are in comparison.
The McKenzie Law Firm, P.C. offers complimentary consultations and case reviews to help you make your choice. Contact us today to schedule your appointment and to learn more about the cost of a Pennsylvania DUI lawyer: 610-680-7842.