A DUI, or Driving Under the Influence, is a misdemeanor charge given to someone operating a motor vehicle while their blood alcohol content is above the legal limit set by statute (usually above .08% blood alcohol content level).
Alcohol is not the only substance included in DUI criteria. Any substance, whether legal or illegal, that can inhibit your cognitive abilities and coordination, can result in a DUI. This includes alcohol, banned or illegal drugs, marijuana, prescription medications, and over the counter medications such as antihistamines.
A conviction for drunk driving will absolutely result in issues maintaining or obtaining automobile insurance. While insurance companies do not have specific policies concerning DUIs, a DUI will definitely cause a significant insurance premium increase.
Auto insurance companies generally charge their customers according to how likely they believe a customer will get into an accident. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol will increase your chances of getting into an accident exponentially, and, thus, will likely result in higher charges.
What Factors Do Insurance Companies Consider When Raising Insurance Rates?
Evidence of high-risk driving is what causes insurance providers to charge higher rates. Examples of evidence of high-risk driving include speeding tickets, past accidents, a limited driving record (as in the case of young drivers), and of course, a DUI.
A conviction for driving under the influence is the most serious of evidence of high-risk driving, and will cause insurance providers to make changes to your current insurance policy.
When someone they insure is convicted of driving under the influence, insurance providers have several options. Most commonly, they will choose one of the following:
- Insurance Providers May Drop a Policyholder: After a DUI conviction, a provider might decide to cancel your policy, or drop your policy at renewal time, in order to avoid the risk of paying for your next accident.
- This would require you as the policyholder to find another insurance provider in order to continue legally driving. However, it is possible to obtain relatively affordable auto insurance from other companies after a DUI conviction.
- Insurance Providers May Raise the Auto Insurance Rates of Someone Convicted of a DUI: Most commonly, a policyholder’s rates will increase after a DUI conviction. It simply costs more to insure a risky driver, given that alcohol-impaired drivers involved in a fatal accident were six times more likely to have a prior DUI conviction than drivers with no alcohol content in their blood.
- An average insurance policy can easily increase by several hundred dollars, but that increase is dependent on the severity of the incident and the your personal driving history. The actual increase in rate can vary a great deal.
Every insurance provider handles DUI convictions differently and may choose another course of action. However, it is illegal for an insurance provider to adjust your policy before it comes up for renewal.
What Steps Should You Take to Avoid Raised Insurance Rates?
The most simple way to avoid an increase in insurance rates is to practice safe driving. This includes avoiding driving under the influence. However, if you find yourself convicted of a DUI, there are some steps you can take to limit the financial burden of increased premiums. Those steps are:
- Plea Bargain: Insurance rate increases are influenced by the severity of the driving violation. States usually have multiple degrees of drunken driving violations, or they may charge you with an additional charge, such as reckless endangerment.
- If you can negotiate your charge(s) down to a lesser offense, you can have a significant impact on your insurance premiums.
- Find a New Insurance Provider: Being convicted of a DUI does not prevent you from obtaining auto insurance. All providers have different policies regarding customer risk evaluation, and this works to your benefit.
- Although a new insurance provider will more than likely be aware of the DUI conviction, they may still offer you a better rate than your current provider.
- Stop Driving-Temporarily: You may choose to not drive for a period of three years. Most insurance providers raise the rates of a DUI convicted policyholder for three years; not driving for this period, therefore not needing auto insurance, could be a more affordable option.
How Long Will a DUI Conviction Affect My Insurance Rates?
As noted above, a DUI conviction will most likely affect insurance rates for a minimum of three years. The amount of time a DUI remains on your driving record, and therefore influences insurance rates, depends on local state policy. In many states, a DUI will automatically be removed from your record between three to seven years.
Some states, however, permanently attach a DUI to your driving record. In these instances, you may seek to have your record expunged. In most cases, your rates will return to normal when the DUI is no longer on your driving record.
Your DUI will remain on your driver’s record for ten years, and at any time during this period, the insurance provider can find out about your DUI and raise your rate (at renewal time) for three years. You also will not qualify for any good driver discounts during the entire ten year period.
What is an SR-22?
An SR-22 is a vehicle liability form that certifies financial responsibility and proves that you have purchased at least the minimum amount of auto insurance required by the state in which you live.
It is an insurance company form that some states use to inform the DMV that a person’s driving privileges are no longer suspended and have been reinstated. In some states, a person convicted of a DUI must have an SR-22 form to have their license reinstated.
To obtain the form, simply call your insurance provider and ask. They will ask for details as part of the process. It’s very important to note that not all insurance providers offer the form or high risk coverage. As such, you run the risk of being dropped from your policy simply for requesting the form.
Do I Need an Attorney If I was Charged with a DUI?
An experienced criminal defense attorney is a valuable asset in DUI cases. These attorneys can evaluate the evidence and determine whether certain procedures, such as a field sobriety test, were administered correctly.
Also, an attorney may be able to help you avoid administrative suspension, therefore avoiding the need for an SR-22. Further, they may be able to effectively negotiate with court to reduce your charges, which will greatly influence how much your insurance provider raises your rates.
It would be very difficult to represent yourself effectively in a DUI case, thus, it’s likely in your best interests to hire an attorney.