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UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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Carrying car insurance is a legal requirement for every licensed driver in the United States. While car insurance rates vary auto insurance is relatively affordable for drivers with a clean driving history. However, once a person has been convicted for drunk driving, they will be required to carry more insurance at a much higher rate.
Being convicted for drunk driving is known as a DUI, or Driving Under the Influence, charge. This type of conviction is not to be taken lightly as it carries severe penalties, fines, potential license suspension or loss and jail time. In certain cases, even when a person manages to avoid being convicted of a DUI, their car insurance rates will still increase if a judge requires them to carry a certain type of increased liability insurance. Drinking and driving is never a wise decision.
One of the first unfortunate side effects of a DUI conviction is the effect it will have on a person’s driver license privileges. For first offenders, there is typically a license suspension for a short period of time, but the person has a small period of time (usually 10 to 15 days) to request a hearing to prevent their license from being suspended. If the person does not take the initiative to set up and attend this hearing, the drivers license will be automatically suspended. The situation is different in every state, but when a first offender’s license is suspended, they will usually be able to obtain a restricted license, which allows them to commute to work and other places deemed necessary by the courts. In some cases, a first offender may be able to request a hearing, pay a fine, and avoid license suspension altogether.
The SR-22 Certificate
An SR-22 certificate is not a certain type of auto insurance policy as some might think. It also has the name Certificate of Financial Responsibility (CFR), and will be mandated by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) of the state that a person has been convicted in. It is typical for persons convicted of a DUI to be required to carry SR-22 insurance.
What this means is first, they will need to find an insurance company that writes SR-22 policies, and then they will need to have the insurance company file the SR-22 certificate on their behalf. They must then carry the SR-22 insurance for 2 to 3 years, depending upon which state they were convicted in.
SR-22 Insurance vs Regular Insurance
The main difference between SR-22 insurance and regular insurance is the increased liability coverage, and the cost. Safe drivers get insurance policies with relatively low amounts of liability coverage because they are considered a low risk by the insurance company. However, a person who has been convicted of a DUI is now considered a risky driver and insurers will require them to carry much higher levels of liability coverage. Liability coverage limits are typically written as three numbers, for example 20/40/10. What this means is a person will have $20,000 of bodily injury coverage per person, $40,000 of bodily injury coverage per accident, and $10,000 of property damage coverage for each accident. These limits vary by state, and may also vary by carrier.
Ignition Interlock Devices
An ignition interlock device is a piece of equipment similar to a breathalyzer that is installed on a car’s dashboard. Before a driver can start their car, they must first exhale into the interlock device, and their car will not start if their blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeds a certain level. This level is usually .02 percent to .04 percent. Additionally, at random times after the car is running, the device will require the driver to give another breath sample. This is to prevent someone else from breathing into the device when starting the car. If the driver does not provide a breath sample when required, the event will be logged by the device, and the device will sound an alarm such as horn honking or lights flashing, until the driver turns the ignition off or provides a clean breath sample. Having one of these installed may lower the cost of car insurance somewhat.
When a driver has been charged with a DUI, one of the first things they should do is find a competent DUI attorney. The laws surrounding DUIs are complex and the penalty for not having a knowledgeable attorney can be severe. An experienced attorney may be able to get penalties, fines, license suspension and jail time reduced or completely eliminated, which could have dramatic effects on the cost of car insurance if there is a DUI conviction. A person does not have to be convicted of a DUI for the court to order them to carry SR-22 insurance, and an attorney may be able to help prevent this from being required.
Finding the Best SR-22 Insurance
There are many car insurance companies who provide SR-22 insurance. Some drivers may be able to have their current insurer file the SR-22 certificate and provide them with restated coverage. However, some carriers do not provide these types of policies, and other insurers may cancel the policy of a person who has an SR-22 requirement. Fortunately, there are many other insurance companies that will compete to provide the lowest-cost SR-22 insurance to drivers in need. AIS insurance, Progressive Insurance and The General Car Insurance are three of the larger insurance companies that will provide this type of insurance for drivers. Even though SR-22 drivers are considered riskier, rates will still vary widely from one insurance company to the next and it is important to get quotes from several different companies in order to find the lowest-cost SR-22 insurance.