No single incident will affect your auto insurance more dramatically than receiving a drunk-driving citation and conviction. Laws and insurance requirements vary by state and it is incumbent upon the offender to meet these requirements to the letter if they hope to both regain their license and retain their auto coverage.
Overview of DUI Laws
All 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws making it a crime to drive with a blood alcohol content at or above 0.08 percent. License suspension for a proscribed period after a first offense varies, with Virginia having the most lenient penalty of seven days, and Georgia the harshest at one year. Suspensions of six months are levied in Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Some states allow a restoration of driving privileges during the suspension period based on good behavior after a set number of days, often 30 days, or at the discretion of the judge. This is not an option in Alabama, Delaware, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia.
Open container laws are in place for the driver, and in most cases the driver and passenger, in all states except Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Mississippi, Missouri, Virginia, and West Virginia. In more than 40 states, some offenders can only regain the ability to drive if their vehicles are outfitted with ignition interlocks. These devices analyze the driver’s breath and will not allow the car to be started it alcohol is detected.
Insurance Consequences of a DUI
Your insurance company may check your driving record only once every three years, but when you are applying for a new policy, your record will surely be investigated. A DUI moves any driver into a high-risk category, resulting in the very least at higher premium rates. What is more likely, however is that existing policies will be cancelled and new coverage denied. This is not the kind of offense that can be corrected by simply taking defensive driving classes.
In most states, drivers with a DUI offense will be required to secure an SR-22 form from their auto insurer. This proves to the Department of Motor Vehicles that you have liability insurance and may well be a requirement to lift the suspension on your license. Once an SR-22 is issued, the insurance company is required to tell the DMV if your policy is cancelled for any reason. Expect to be required to file proof of insurance with the state DMV for as many as five years after receiving a DUI. For that period, you will likely pay the highest rate for your auto insurance.
Some insurance companies do not issue SR-22 policies, which means that in addition to having an arrest on your record and being forced to deal with a license suspension, you will also be in a position of shopping for new coverage to get back behind the wheel. If you have been issued an SR-22, find out what is required of you in your state. In Delaware, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania, you won’t have to get an SR-22, but if you move into the state with an existing SR-22, you must continue to meet the SR-22 requirements in the state where the offense occurred.
Considering the fact that one person dies in the United States every half hour in an auto-related accident, these stringent laws are in place for a purpose. High insurance rates are, frankly, the most minimal penalty for a dangerous offense that can and does result in thousands of deaths every day in this country. If you receive a DUI, you have committed a crime and you will pay the consequences, both in legal terms and in the cost of and difficulty in maintaining your auto insurance coverage.