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The Hefty Costs of a DUI

Driving drunk is a bad decision for obvious reasons. Get behind the wheel after too many holiday cocktails and you run the risk of ending up in the back of a police cruiser -- or, worse, the back of an ambulance. But alongside the danger of arrest or causing harm to yourself and others, there's another reason to avoid driving under the influence: DUIs cost big bucks.

"A DUI is just extremely expensive," says Jason Mayberry, an attorney in Tampa, Fla., who specializes in DUI cases at his firm, Mayberry/Rich.

A DUI can cost a driver thousands of dollars for a relatively straightforward offense -- or considerably more if the DUI also involves an accident that caused injuries or deaths. And it can seriously harm your reputation -- consider the case of Douglas Parker, the CEO of U.S. Airways (LCC) who was nabbed for DUI just a few hours after the company's 2007 takeover bid for Delta Air Lines (DAL) was rejected.

From towing and bail to lawyers' fees and fines, DUI is an expensive proposition. Here's a rundown on the financial impact of a DUI conviction.

Towing and impound. Failing a field sobriety test is a one-way ticket to the police station. You get to ride in the back of the cruiser while your car gets hitched to a tow truck and dragged to an impound lot. Before you pick up your car, make sure to hit the ATM. "I've had clients pay $300 or $400 after their cars were towed and kept overnight," says Mayberry.

Be aware that DUI laws in some states require people to forfeit their vehicles, especially in the case of a repeat offender. A second-time DUI offender in Tennessee, for example, may have his or her car seized by the state.

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