You already know that the legal penalties for driving under the influence are harsh, but have you thought about how a DUI conviction might affect your automobile insurance? Will you still qualify for auto insurance? Will you be able to afford the higher rates after a DUI conviction? Auto insurance companies impose their own DUI penalties, and they allow you no lawyer and no appeal. Keep reading, and you’ll learn about the links between your auto insurance and DUI.

Of course, if you are arrested charged with driving under the influence in southern California, you’ll need high-quality legal representation immediately – you’ll need to reach out to an experienced Orange County DUI lawyer – but you should also realize that the formal criminal penalties you may face are not the only penalties for driving under the influence.

In California, you are not required to notify your automobile insurance company if you are arrested for, charged with, or convicted of driving under the influence. In fact, nothing is gained by informing your insurance company. However, they’ll find out eventually, usually when they check your California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) record.

HOW DO AUTO INSURERS LEARN ABOUT DUI CONVICTIONS?

A driving under the influence conviction remains on your record for ten years in this state, so auto insurance companies can learn about any DUI conviction in the last decade. Auto insurance companies in California routinely check a driver’s DMV record before renewing a policy or issuing a new policy, so that’s the main way insurance companies learn about DUI convictions.

If your policy isn’t up for renewal, your auto insurer will learn about a DUI conviction when you request an SR 22 form to reinstate your driving privileges after the driver’s license suspension that California requires for DUI offenders. The company cannot cancel your policy or raise your premium while a policy is in effect, but it may raise your premium or cancel the policy when it’s time for renewal.

Finding an auto insurance company and a policy that will cover you after a driving under the influence conviction can take some work. There are companies that will insure you in California after a DUI conviction, but they may be difficult to find, and in any event, your premium will invariably cost a great deal more with a DUI conviction on your record.

EXACTLY WHAT IS AN SR 22 DOCUMENT?

California law obligates motorists to have liability coverage for each motor vehicle they own and operate in this state. Liability insurance is coverage to compensate motorists, passengers, and pedestrians for their damages and injuries if a traffic collision happens.

California requires these minimum liability coverages:

– $5,000 for damage to property
– $15,000 for the injury or death of one individual in an accident
– $30,000 total for the injuries or deaths of more than one individual in an accident

After a DUI conviction, California also requires a convicted driver to obtain an SR 22 certificate from his or her auto insurance company. The auto insurance company will provide the SR 22 and will send a copy to the California DMV. It certifies that the driver has satisfied California’s minimum auto liability coverage requirements, and it restores a driver’s license when the license suspension is lifted.

HOW DO AUTO INSURANCE COMPANIES HANDLE SR 22 REQUESTS?

The bad news is that requesting an SR 22 will raise the cost of your auto insurance coverage and will probably also put you in the insurance company’s “high-risk driver” category. SR 22s are required for at least three years, and a high-risk designation can cost a motorist as much as an additional $800 a year.

California drivers should also be aware that not all auto insurance companies in California provide SR 22 documents or insure drivers who need SR 22-compatible policies. If your auto insurance company does not provide SR 22s or SR 22 coverage, the company will cancel your policy, and you’ll have 45 days to obtain new insurance coverage – or your vehicle’s registration will be suspended.

But even for drivers with DUI convictions and SR 22 requirements, rates vary greatly, so take your time shopping around for the best insurance deal you can find. And be careful – insurance fraud is on the rise, so if you’re offered a deal that’s too good to be true, it probably is. You can call the California Department of Insurance to make sure that you are working with a licensed and reputable insurance agent or broker.

Ten years after an arrest for driving under the influence, the California DMV will erase the DUI conviction from your record permanently and automatically. Then, as far as any automobile insurance company will know, it never happened.

WHAT IF YOU TAKE A PLEA BARGAIN TO AVOID A DUI CONVICTION?

How will your auto insurance be affected if you accept a plea bargain to avoid a DUI conviction? The truth is that even a conviction for a lesser charge will have a negative effect on your auto insurance situation. If you accept a conviction for wet reckless, dry reckless, or exhibition of speed, two points will be added to your license, and those points will raise your auto insurance costs.

If your DUI lawyer recommends accepting a plea bargain, do it – in many California DUI cases there are several good reasons to accept a plea bargain, but it won’t change your auto insurance situation. Wet reckless, dry reckless, and exhibition of speed are treated as major moving violations, so the impact on your car insurance is comparable to a DUI conviction. However, these convictions stay on your record for only seven years – not ten, like a DUI conviction.

Of course, all of the DUI and insurance trouble discussed above can be avoided by following one simple and basic piece of advice: Don’t drink and drive. Have a designated driver you can trust, or hire a ride. Taxis, limos, charters, and rideshare services are available all over southern California, 24 hours a day every day. You could also get a room for the night or crash on a friend’s sofa. Just don’t drink and drive.

But if you make a mistake and you do get stopped – or if you are charged with DUI and you believe that you’re innocent, it’s imperative to obtain high-quality legal help at once. If you are charged with DUI, you must have an experienced Orange County DUI lawyer fighting on your behalf, because it’s about much more than your auto insurance rates – it’s also about your freedom and your future.