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DUI conviction can be very costly in Virginia

More than one person has noted the irony inherent in Virginia's ABC stores. The Commonwealth controls the distribution and sale of alcohol to "ensure that adults of legal age who choose to responsibly consume alcohol can do so in a safe environment." At the same time, the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control touts on its website its store openings (including one in Leesburg this past summer) and its booming business (over $140 million in profits).

The Commonwealth also profits on the other end, of course, as most people who have been convicted of driving under the influence can attest: the fines start at $250 for a first offense and go up from there.

That figure does not even include court costs, higher insurance rates and a fee to enter the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program. Nor does it include the cost of an ignition interlock device that you might well be required to have installed and maintained - at your expense - in your vehicle.

The rise in insurance costs alone can total hundreds of dollars per year, and thousands when extended over a period of just a couple of years. Experts give varying opinions on the amount the rates will go up (though they are unanimous in the belief that costs will soar), with some saying rates will increase as little as 20 percent in the first year after a DUI and others citing figures as high as a 95 percent rate increase for those first 12 months.

Of course, for many convicted of DUI, the first thing they hear from their auto insurance company is that their policy has been canceled. This forces the driver to scramble for new insurance, only to find that insurers specializing in covering DUI offenders can charge extraordinarily high rates.

What many people believe is that it makes more sense to speak with an attorney experienced in fighting DUI charges. In many cases, charges can be dismissed or reduced, enabling drivers to avoid the highest costs and harshest punishments.

Source: Virginia.gov, "News & Updates," accessed Oct. 15, 2014

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