What began as a great night out ended as a bad night in police custody after you drove up to a DUI checkpoint. A DUI/DWI charge brings with it a million worries, not the least of which is the cost of a possible conviction. One cost you might not have worried about is your auto insurance. Here is a brief introduction to how a DUI can affect your insurance rates, in addition to the other possible consequences of driving under the influence.
Impacts of DUI on Insurance
The adverse affects of a DUI or DWI conviction go well beyond a fine, court costs, and license suspension. If you have been convicted of drunk driving, you can also expect to pay much higher auto insurance premiums as a "high-risk driver" once your insurer discovers the offense. You could even be dropped from coverage altogether, meaning you might have to shop around for a new policy with both a DUI and insurance cancellation on your record.
Most states require those convicted of a DUI to obtain an SR-22 form from their insurers, which proves to the department of motor vehicles (DMV) that you indeed carry liability insurance. This is required in order for the DMV to lift your license suspension. The SR-22 form serves as an obvious red flag about the conviction and also requires the insurer to contact the DMV if it cancels your insurance policy.
Depending on the state, you may have to show proof of auto insurance to the DMV for up to five years in order to maintain a valid license. Not every insurance company offers SR-22 auto insurance policies; some insurers either cancel or don't renew your policy after a DUI conviction. Six states don't require SR-22 forms: Delaware, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.
DUI and Insurance Rates
But not all DUI offenses are treated the same, as most insurers look at them on a case-by-case basis. For example, you might only get a marginal rate increase if you have an otherwise excellent driving record and the DUI conviction is your first offense. Successive drunk driving offenses, however, usually result in exponentially higher rate increases, while many insurance companies refuse to cover repeat offenders. Keep in mind that insurance companies have a few years in which to raise your rates for a DUI conviction, even if they don't discover it right away. The offense may even affect your life insurance premiums.
Whether or not your auto insurance company quickly discovers your DUI (if at all) depends on the given state's laws and procedures, not to mention the way your case was handled. Roughly 20 percent of convictions for traffic violations (including DUI) don't even make it into motor vehicle records, according to the Insurance Research Council. Reasons why the offense may fly under the radar include poor communication between the courts and the DMV, an erased conviction due to defensive driving school, or a reduced charge due to a guilty plea. Your conviction may also escape detection by your insurer if you committed the offense in a state that doesn't require an SR-22 form.
Concerned About Insurance Rates After a DUI? Talk to a Lawyer
DUI convictions can be expensive enough without adding the cost of higher insurance premiums. If you've been arrested or charged with DUI, or if you want to know how a DUI might affect your insurance, it may be in your best interests to meet with a local DUI attorney.