Guest opinion: Cost of first-time DUI in Colorado? $13,000

Richard Duran

Say you’re heading out for a few drinks with friends or family. How much would you be willing to spend to ensure you didn’t have to drive home? Ten dollars, 20, several hundred?

It seems unlikely that you would pay hundreds of dollars for a ride home, but the fact is you could likely arrange for a helicopter ride to give you door-to-door service and you’d still pay less than you would for a DUI. The average cost of a first-time DUI in Colorado is now $13,530.

Sound extreme? Consider some of the costs a driver can expect to incur with a DUI. You’ll pay for your stay in jail or detox, and to have your car towed when you’re arrested. You may very well pay for a defense attorney, and almost assuredly have court costs. There’s the cost of an ignition interlock device which requires a breath test before you can start your vehicle. Don’t forget costs of mandatory alcohol and drug classes, probation fees and the charge to get your driver’s license reinstated.

Assuming your auto insurer doesn’t drop you, you can expect a substantial jump in your annual rate that will likely stick around for several years.

All told, a DUI means you can expect to pay about two dozen different fines and charges — all for the privilege of getting your driver’s license back. And you’ll have a criminal record.

That helicopter ride is sounding better and better.

The $13,530 calculation marks an increase of more than $3,000 for the average DUI in Colorado. Fueling the increase is Colorado drivers who are more intoxicated than ever. Statewide, the average blood alcohol content among impaired drivers last year was .164. That’s more than twice the legal limit of .08.

In Garfield County, the average BAC in DUI cases was .155.

Either of those averages ­— state and county —qualifies someone as a persistent drunk driver, even if it’s a first offense. That means expanded requirements to get your driver’s license back, including a mandatory two years of driving with an ignition interlock device and weekly alcohol and drug education and therapy classes for close to nine months.

Beyond the huge financial risk is the fact that driving impaired puts a driver and anyone else on the road at the same time at an increased risk for serious injury or even death.

Take public transit or a taxi, or buy dinner for a friend or family member who will stay sober and be your designated driver. If there’s even a slight possibility you may be in a situation where you could drive impaired, take five minutes before leaving home or work to figure out how you can get out and back without having to drive yourself.

Remember that number: $13,530, and make the best decision for your bank account, and for your safety.

Capt. Richard Duran is commander of Colorado State Patrol Troop 4C.

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