According to the Automobile Club of Southern California (ACSC), it’s getting a lot more expensive to be convicted of DUI in California. That’s no surprise. What’s disturbing about the recent ACSC report is that even drivers charged with a first-offense misdemeanor DUI may face up to $16,000 in penalties if convicted.

That figure represents a 29% increase in financial penalties in only two years. California teens face even more severe financial penalties. The average cost of a first-offense misdemeanor DUI conviction in California of anyone under age 21 now surpasses $22,000.

ACSC arrives at these figures by adding up the average costs of state and local fines, other legal penalties, restitution, legal fees, and insurance increases. The ACSC figures do not include, for example, the costs first-time defendants face if they lose time from work for a trial or jail term or if they have to reimburse for damages from accidents they have caused.

The ACSC figures also do not include the likely costs of a civil trial. For many Californians, these kinds of expenses would be financially disastrous. A good DUI defense lawyer might be able to help these defendants avoid a number of these penalties.

The current legal trend has been for the courts to show little leniency in these first-offense misdemeanor DUI cases, so if you (or one of your children) are facing this charge, don’t expect to “skate” just because it’s a first offense. You’re going to need the services of an experienced DUI defense attorney who will defend you at every stage of the legal process.

A good DUI lawyer will assess the specifics of your case, explain your options, and guide you through the complicated legal procedures. He or she might, in some cases, discover grounds to have your charges reduced or even dismissed altogether. Even if you’re “only” a first-time offender, if you’re facing any kind of DUI-related charge, speak to an experienced DUI attorney today.