Tuesday, December 30, 2008

KTUU Channel 2 Calculates The Cost Of A First-Time DUI In Alaska Can Reach $20,000 Or More, And That's Assuming No Traffic Accident Resulted

Post updated to include more current KTUU news video aired December 30th, reporting on final outcome of Wet Lab test.

Would you pay $20,000 for a martini? Or even a bottle of vintage wine? Probably not. But if a single martini puts you over Alaska's .08 DUI limit, it could end up costing you as much as $20,000, according to calculations by KTUU Channel 2. Full story HERE with two news videos.

Here's the "tale of the tape":

-- Three days in jail: $330
-- Court costs: $8,000
-- Change of plea: $5,000
-- Vehicle impound: $500
-- Alternate public transportation: $500
-- Get driver's license restored: $500
-- Mandatory one-year ignition interlock: $1,600
-- Five years' SR22 insurance: $10,000

- Total costs: $21,130

Alaska's DUI penalties are spelled out in AS 28.35.030, viewable HERE.

Oh, and that's assuming what I call a "simple" DUI. That means NO accident, and NO injuries, fatalities, or property damage. And there's another cost not reflected above. Do you drive for a living? If you're a UPS or FedEx driver, for example, and you get socked with a DUI, you might get transferred to package sorting...if you're lucky and they have an opening. More likely you will get FIRED.

So naturally, the next question is, how do you avoid a DUI? Ideally, without drinking. But the use of alcohol is still legal, despite MADD's efforts, so the next question is "how much can you drink and still remain under the limit"? The second KTUU news video addresses this issue. A "Wet Lab" experiment was conducted at the Anchorage Police Department Training Center, and here were some of the findings after an hour of so of social drinking (test subjects blew into a breathalyzer after the indicated number of beers):

Two beers = .028
Three beers = .062, .06; subjects reported feeling buzzed but not impaired
Four beers = .05

However, one can be arrested for DUI in Alaska without being over the limit. According to AS 28.35.033, the .08 standard simply means you are presumed to be intoxicated. There is a separate .04 standard, below which you are presumed not to be intoxicated regardless of any field sobriety tests or other subjective evidence. However, if you blow between .04 and .08, you may still be arrested and convicted for DUI if the BAT is accompanied by other evidence, such as failure of a field sobriety test.

From the results of the "Wet Lab", you can see that there is some wiggle room. But when you're at a bar or party, you can easily lose track of time as well as the number of drinks. You can underestimate the amount of alcohol in your system, as the Wet Lab test subjects proved when they all blew .09 or higher after six drinks in 2 1/2 hours.

So how likely is it that you will get caught? Because Alaska has not legislatively empowered Alaska cops to conduct controversial roadside "sobriety checkpoints" like other states, not as likely as other states. But Alaska cops surge during holidays and patrol our streets and highways more vigorously. The law of averages says you will, at some time, get caught. Whether or not our penalties for first-time DUI are too draconian is irrelevant to this particular discussion; they exist, and you risk incurring them if you break the law.

My concerns about MADD and their true motives were previously discussed in this September 2006 post. Also see this December 2007 post, where I discuss a Men's Health Survey which showed that Anchorage was found to be "the second most drunk city in the United States".


  1. I drive a taxi. I have had this conversation with numerous people who have had DUIs.

    They calculate that even if they drove drunk twice every weekend for two years, if it was $20 for the cab, that they would have spent less money on cabs than a single DUI. Far less.

    Add to that losing a job, or the final straw leading to a divorce....

  2. Thanks for the comment, Coldfoot. Just more proof that times have changed - that DUI has simply become too expensive in too many respects.

    This video is probably one of KTUU's top ten most relevant news stories on 2008. I've seen no other news reports that better define just what it takes to become legally impaired.