Can A DWI Conviction Hurt Your Credit Score?

Posted on: 27 March 2015


Being convicted of driving while intoxicated can result in many well-known consequences such as fines, lost of driving privileges, and jail time. What's not well known is that a DWI can negatively impact your credit score as well, which can lead to significant financial losses over the long term. Here's what you need to know about this issue, and how you can avoid this outcome.

Indirect Credit Consequences

DWIs appear on your criminal and driving record, not your credit report, so a conviction won't have a direct impact on your credit score. The trouble comes from the consequences of defending against the charges, being convicted of a DWI, and civil actions that may arise from the incident. These items often have a financial cost attached to them, which can send you spiraling into debt trap you may not be able to escape.

For instance, to improve your chances of avoiding a DWI conviction, it's often necessary to hire a private attorney—as opposed to getting a public defender—to represent you in court. This can cost an average of $100 to $300 per hour. Some lawyers will charge a flat fee, but you still may end up spending a few thousand dollars on legal representation, especially if you go to trial.

If the court finds you guilty of DWI, you will likely be charged fees and fines. For instance, a first time DWI conviction in New York carries a mandatory minimum $500 to $1,000 fine. That amount steadily increases with each conviction, topping out at $10,000 for three violations in a ten-year period of time.

A conviction can also have a negative impact on your employment prospects, especially if you lose your driving privileges. You may get fired by your employer or be rendered unable to work because you are in jail. Many employers conduct background checks on potential employees, which may make it hard to find a job.

Lastly, if you were involved in an accident, you could be sued by the other party in civil court. Not only can you be ordered to pay the defendant damages for their losses, a civil judgment does appear on your credit report and will drag your score down.

Minimizing Money Trouble

Essentially, a DWI conviction can hurt your finances in a bad way, especially if you're already on shaky ground in this area. According to a recent study, 62 percent of Americans don't have enough savings to cover an unexpected emergency. This may lead people who are facing DWI charges to put the associated expenses on credit cards or take out loans to cover the costs. If you lose your job or otherwise become unable to pay that debt, your credit score will suffer as a result.

One thing you can do to avoid this problem is to ensure you have a financial cushion. Many money experts recommend you have at least 3 to 6 months of cash reserves that are easily accessible. This can help lessen the financial toll a DWI charge and/or conviction can take on your life.

Another thing you can do is avoid being convicted of the charge or have the charges reduced as much as possible. To do this, it's best to work with an experienced attorney who can help you effectively defend against a DWI and minimize its impact on your finances and credit score. Contact a firm such a Follender Law Offices, P.L.L.C. for more information.