The Real Cost of a DWI

By Sonya Schweitzer

The Real Cost of a DWI

On average, a DWI will cost you at least $10,000. But that’s just the financial burden.  What about the cost to your relationships, mental health, and possibly your employment? This blog looks at the real cost of a DWI—Driving While Intoxicated.  

Being convicted of a DWI can have significant and long-lasting consequences on a person’s life. 

If you get a DWI, it can ruin your whole family… it can destroy the way you live.

~Juanita Deshazior, Samaritan Inns Director of Women With Children Program


Immediate Consequences of a DWI

Immediately following a DWI arrest or conviction, many find the impact significant. In most cases, the effect goes beyond a suspension of one’s driver’s license.   Here are six ways that a DWI impacts your life in the weeks after the conviction:  

  1. Legal consequences:  Depending on the severity of the offense and the jurisdiction of the arrest, you may face fines, license suspension, probation, community service, or even jail time. You may also be required to attend alcohol education or treatment programs. 
  2. Employment consequences:  A DWI conviction can impact a person’s ability to get or keep a job. Certain professions may require a clean driving record and may be off-limits to those with a DWI conviction. Additionally, employers may view a DWI conviction as a sign of poor judgment and lack of responsibility. 
  3. Insurance consequences:  A DWI conviction can result in higher insurance premiums or even the cancellation of insurance policies, making it difficult and costly to get coverage in the future.
  4. Financial consequences: Besides fines and legal fees, a DWI conviction can result in other economic consequences, such as higher transportation costs if your driver’s license is suspended. Or you may lose your employment if you cannot work from home. 

The Emotional Cost of a DWI

The first four immediate consequences are part of the real cost of a DWI, but what about the emotional cost? The following two immediate consequences are also a real impact. 

  1. Personal relationships:  A DWI conviction can strain personal relationships with friends and family.  
  2. Emotional consequences:  A DWI conviction can be a stressful and emotionally taxing experience. It can lead to feelings of shame, guilt, and embarrassment. Many have anxiety about the future and the conviction’s impact on life. 

A DWI conviction can have far-reaching consequences that can affect a person’s life in many ways, even long after the conviction. 

What About the $10,000?

Are the billboards correct…Does it cost $10K to defend a DWI conviction in the DMV region? If we look at the real cost of a DWI, it’s essential to look deeper into the legal cost of defense. (Even for your first conviction) 

The cost of a legal defense for a DWI in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC, can vary widely depending on several factors, including the jurisdiction, the severity of the offense, the complexity of the case, and the experience of the attorney. Legal fees for a DWI defense can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands. 

For a first-time DWI offense, our region’s legal fees may range from $2,500-$10,000 or more. Costs will be significantly higher for repeat offenses or cases involving aggravating factors. And this fee is only for your legal defense. 

It’s important to know that the cost of a legal defense is only one part of the financial impact of a DWI in the DMV region. Additional costs will include fines, court fees, increased insurance premiums, and attending mandated alcohol awareness programs. 

Combine the fees and fines with the emotional and relationship cost, and it quickly becomes apparent that the real cost of a DWI is high.

The Ultimate Price 

A blog about the real cost of a DWI would not be complete without a discussion on “the ultimate price”…

Although drunk driving fatalities have decreased by 9% over the past decade, 29% of all fatal automobile accidents include a substance-impaired driver. (

The cost of a DWI is not only to the driver but also to all the others impacted by the impaired driver’s lack of judgment.  

Do You Need Assistance?

Often, a DWI arrest is an indicator of a bigger problem. If you are in Washington, DC, and need assistance with an alcohol or drug addiction, Samaritan Inns can help. Our proven three-step recovery program has helped thousands combat addiction. We are here to help you today. 

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