Frequently Asked Questions about DUI Convictions, and How They Impact Your Auto Insurance
If you have a DUI or DWI conviction in California, you probably have a lot of questions as to how this affects you and your ability to obtain insurance. Here are some answers to the most common questions.
How long will a DUI stay on my public driving record?
According to California law, a DUI conviction will remain on your public driving record for 10 years. This record is made available for all public requestors, including insurance companies.
How do I get the conviction removed from my driving record after the ten years have passed?
You don't need to do anything to get this conviction removed from your record. It will automatically be removed once the ten years have passed.
Is the ten-year time frame the same for commercial drivers?
No. The ten-year time frame that a DUI conviction remains on the public driving record only applies to non-commercial drivers. Those with a CDL who have had their license suspended or have committed a major moving violation are subject to penalties set forth by the federal Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 and may have these convictions appear on their driving record for 55 years.
What are some of the consequences of having a DUI conviction on my driving record?
The most notable impact of having a DUI conviction on your driving record is that it will increase your premiums, possibly by hundreds of dollars and for several years. Additionally, California drivers will not be eligible for a good driver discount for ten years following their DUI conviction, nor will they be eligible for the low income automobile insurance program offered by the state, as that program is only available to those with good driving records. If you drive for a living and your employer participates in the Employer Pull Notice (EPN) program, a copy of your driving record will be mailed to them when you are hired as well as on an annual basis and could affect your employment.
Should I tell my insurance company about my DUI conviction?
If you are shopping for a new policy, yes. The company will find out about the conviction anyway, once they receive your public driving record. Telling the company about the conviction will enable you to get the most reliable quote. What's more, if you are dishonest about your driving record when seeking a quote and obtaining insurance, it may result in cancellation of your policy, the imposition of additional fees, or going back to square one in the quote process.
If you already have insurance, your rates will likely stay the same until it is time to renew the policy. At that point, most companies will obtain your driving record and will adjust your rates accordingly. It may be helpful to inform your agent before the policy is renewed so that you can be aware of what sort of increase or other potential consequences you face.
Can my insurance company cancel my policy as a result of my conviction?
Yes. Your insurance policy is subject to cancellation by you or your insurer for any reason, and at any time. If your insurance company cancels your policy, you must immediately get insurance from another company, as it is illegal for you to own or operate your vehicle in California without at least the minimum liability coverage. In fact, you are required to carry insurance even while your license is suspended and your car is not being used. Insurance companies are required to electronically submit information about your insurance to the DMV. Once the DMV is informed that your policy has been cancelled, it will send you a notice that provides you with 45 days to submit new insurance information or else your registration will be suspended.
Will a DUI conviction make it hard for me to get insurance?
While it will likely make your insurance more expensive and may require you to obtain insurance from a different company, rest assured -- there are a number of companies who work with high risk drivers, including those who have had a DUI conviction. The key to finding insurance to suit your circumstance is to shop around and see what multiple companies can offer you, and for how much.
Additionally, you may be eligible to participate in the California Automobile Assigned Risk Program (CAARP). This program will assign you to an insurance company. All companies participating in the program must charge the same premiums and you can pay in installments. GM Insurance Services participates in the CAARP program and we would be happy to provide you more information about it.
How much does a DUI increase my insurance premiums?
Because insurance premiums are determined using a number of factors, it depends. Each company defines "high risk" a little differently, and a DUI at a low speed and without an accident may result in very different rate increases than one that involves a violent crash at a high rate of speed.
Your driving record is only one factor in determining your premiums, as well. Many other things, including your age and your income status can influence your rates. Even your credit score is factored into what your premiums will be, meaning that a DUI and a good credit score may result in lower premiums than a DUI with a poor credit score.
However, insurance industry statistics indicate that your insurance premiums can increase more than 94 percent in the first year after the conviction. Three years after your conviction, you may still be paying around 63 percent more for insurance than you were before the conviction. This can result in hundreds of extra dollars each year. What's more, due to your high risk insurance status, you may be required to pay for your policy upfront, rather than making monthly payments.
What is a SR-22, and do I need to file one?
The SR-22 is a certificate of financial responsibility. It is often required for high risk drivers who have had their license suspended due to a DUI conviction. Other reasons that a driver might be required to provide a SR-22 is if you've been found driving without insurance, have been involved in a serious accident, or if you have a large number of points on your driving record.
You will be notified by the Department of Motor Vehicles if a SR-22 is needed. A SR-22 is filed by your insurance company when it comes time for you to reinstate your suspended or revoked license. Essentially, this certificate states that you meet the state's minimum car insurance requirements currently, and will continue to do so for a set period of time -- often three years. Contrary to popular belief, the SR-22 is not, itself, a form of insurance. It is simply a proof of insurance. Drivers who are under SR-22 compliance are subject to the same regulations and minimum insurance requirements as anyone else.
What other impacts might I face with a SR-22 filing?
Because the SR-22 is only required for high risk drivers, if your insurance company does not cover high risk drivers, they may not be able to file this certificate for you. You may be required to obtain insurance from a different company that specializes in high risk drivers. Additionally, if you receive any other violations during the time period in which the SR-22 is effective, you may be required to file your SR-22 for a longer amount of time.
Is there a fee for filing the SR-22?
Yes. If you are over 21 years of age, the DMV will assess a $125 fee in order to reissue your license after suspension or revocation. The fee is $100 if you are under 21 years of age and your license was suspended under the Zero Tolerance Law. Additionally, the insurance company filing your SR-22 will require a fee of around $25 in order to complete this service for you.
What can I do to decrease my insurance premiums following a DUI conviction?
This is a case where time is your friend. Time for the ten years to pass and the conviction to be cleared from your record. Time to get older, which can cause your insurance premiums to decrease. Time to get a new job, to purchase a car that is considered lower risk or a home in a safer area. In addition to the passage of time and the benefits that provides in terms of how your premiums are calculated, the best thing you can do to decrease the amount of money you pay for insurance is good, clean driving. With no more violations, eventually you will again be able to purchase a standard insurance policy and qualify for good driver discounts.
Getting Insurance in California after A DUI
On average, every year in California, there are nearly 150,000 DUI convictions. That means that each year, almost 150,000 drivers in California must navigate the tricky aftermath of receiving a DUI. This might include dealing with an Order of Suspension, requesting a restricted license, or attending a court-ordered Driving Under the Influence Program. It will also almost certainly include getting a new insurance policy.
In California, legislation enables insurance companies to base their policies on a driver's driving record going back ten years. A DUI conviction will unquestionably affect the policy. It could simply mean that a driver's good driver discount is revoked. More likely, though, the insurance company will modify a driver's existing policy with an increased premium, require the driver to get a new policy with a considerably higher premium or cancel the policy altogether.
Why You Always Need Insurance
- California Registration Insurance Law
While a canceled insurance policy might not sound like such a bad idea while your driver's license is suspended—no insurance premium means more money is staying in your wallet—this is illegal for anyone who owns a vehicle. In California, even if a vehicle is not in use, it must be covered by liability insurance.
Additionally, after a DUI, if a driver cancels their insurance coverage and fails to send in updated insurance information within the 45 days, state police are notified.
- State Requirements for Insurance Companies
By law, insurance companies must report updated insurance information to the DMV (i.e., A driver's insurance has been canceled because they have gotten a DUI). When the DMV receives this information, they will notify drivers that they have 45 days to submit new insurance information. If they do not, their vehicle registration will be suspended.
- Requirements for Restricted And Suspended Licenses
DUI Insurance Rates
The simple fact is that your insurance premium is based on how likely it is that you will get into a car accident. To your insurance company, a DUI indicates a significantly increased risk. According to research, a blood alcohol concentration that is above the legal limit makes a driver 11 times more likely than a sober driver to get into a fatal car crash—and this does not include the increased likelihood for non-fatal car crashes. In short, a DUI in California will stay on your public driving record for ten years and, until those ten years are up and the DUI no longer shows on your record, insurance companies will view you as having a significantly higher risk than other drivers.
This higher risk carries with it an extra cost. This extra cost comes both from the insurance company and from the state of California. After a DUI, California requires a driver's insurance company to file an SR-22 to prove that they are carrying the state-mandated amount of car insurance coverage or more. An SR-22 simply reinstates a driver's driving privileges after their license has been suspended. This form must be submitted for up to three years after a driver's license has been submitted. It costs between $25 and $40 to file.
On top of this, typical insurance premiums will increase by a few hundred dollars or double in cost, creating a significant additional monthly expense. Even three years after a DUI, a driver's insurance premium will remain roughly 60% higher than what it was pre-DUI. Finally, any good driving discount that a driver had before the DUI will be taken away when the policy is renewed. The discount will only become available again after ten years of a clean driving record.
With all of this being said, most drivers likely have a few months that they can breathe easy after a DUI conviction. Insurance companies in California cannot cancel a policy or increase a premium while a policy term is active. They can only do this when the policy needs to be renewed.
DUI Insurance Companies
Can You Get Insurance After A DUI?
Many drivers that receive a DUI worry that they simply will not find insurance. In California, this is not the case. State law requires that every driver carry insurance. Because of this, they are required to create options for everyone. This is why, if all else fails, drivers can rely on the California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan.
In this program, drivers are matched with car insurance companies. A driver might even be matched with a previous insurer as all insurance companies are required to accept a policy from CAARP
Alternatively, drivers with a DUI conviction can also rely on insurance agencies that represent multiple carriers. These agencies will have a driver's best interest in mind, with a goal to find the most affordable rates and reliable coverage. Some agencies even specialize in identifying optimal insurance coverage for high-risk drivers. They will compare quotes with carriers that are more DUI-friendly.
GM Insurance Services is one such agency. We specialize in non-standard auto insurance for high-risk drivers in need of insurance after a DUI. Please contact us by phone or on our website for a free quote.
How to Lower Your Premiums after a DUI Conviction
There is no quick fix that will allow a driver to immediately reduce their insurance premiums to what they were before the DUI conviction. However, several steps can be taken that will help drivers to lower their premiums over the long-term.
- Get the DUI Conviction Reduced
In California, it is not just being convicted of a DUI or not being convicted of a DUI. Drivers can get slightly lessened convictions, including dry reckless and wet reckless. These convictions are still considered major moving violations, though. They will result in an additional two points being added to a driving record, just like a DUI would. However, while a DUI stays on a driving record for ten years, wet and dry reckless are removed from driving records after only seven years. That means premium rates will drop substantially three years earlier than they otherwise would have, allowing drivers to save at least several hundred dollars, if not more.
- Take Classes
Insurance carriers appreciate when drivers take steps to improve their driving. These steps can come in various forms. For some carriers, they will be willing to reduce premiums if the policyholder begins attending AA or NA. Other carriers might prefer policyholders with a DUI conviction to take more driving-specific courses. For example, a 6-hour defensive driving course can allow drivers to get points taken off of their driver's license. This, in turn, will encourage their carriers to reduce their premiums—sometimes by as much as 15%. Drivers should speak to their carrier to find out what will enable them to reduce their premium and by how much they can reduce it.
- Do Not Get Other Violations
As previously stated, insurance carriers partially base premiums off of a driver's record. So while drivers cannot change their age or gender, they can work to improve their record. This means avoiding traffic violations, like speeding tickets. It also means being a more cautious driver to avoid car accidents.
- Multi-Driver Discounts
Many drivers are on a family policy. It is almost always the most cost-effective method. However, because many carriers will not offer coverage for high-risk drivers, most individuals who receive a DUI will simply opt out of the family policy. They will then purchase a separate policy. Unfortunately, this often increases the premiums for both drivers, as the good driver's multi-driver discount will be taken away when they are the only person on the policy.
Most times, it is best to move all of the drivers to a carrier that will cover a high-risk driver and offer a multi-driver discount.
- Address Other Areas That Effect the Premium
As previously stated, the DUI is not the only factor that a carrier will take into consideration when deciding on a driver's insurance premium. It is for this reason that drivers can begin to address the other factors. The first factor that can be actively addressed is driving a safer car. When cars have certain safety features, including airbags, car alarms, anti-lock breaks, and more, insurance carriers view this as a reduction in risk. Because of the risk reduction, they will reduce the premium.
Another way for drivers with a DUI to reduce their premium is to take a look at their deductible. The deductible is what drivers must pay out-of-pocket before their insurance starts to cover them. A general rule of thumb is that the higher the deductible, the lower the premium. Raising a deductible to a high enough amount could lower the premium by up to 40%.