Our California DUI attorneys assist clients in obtaining SR22s and car insurance throughout the state, including Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Orange County, San Bernardino, Riverside and Ventura.
A lot of mystery and confusion surrounds the SR22 requirement in connection with California DUI cases. In this article, we break it down and explain everything.
Simply put, a California SR22 is a form (provided by your car insurance company) that verifies you have met this state's requirement with respect to auto liability insurance. Upon issuance, your insurance company will forward a copy to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
An SR22 must be obtained anytime you wish to reinstate your license following a DMV suspension or revocation. Although they are most commonly associated with DUI-related license suspensions, an SR22 may be necessary under a variety of circumstances.
In this article, our California DUI attorneys will address your most frequently asked questions about California SR22 forms... and how they relate to driving under the influence... by answering the following:
If, after reading this article, you have additional questions, we invite you to contact us. You may also find helpful information in our related articles on Vehicle Code 23152 Driving Under the Influence, DUI Probation, Top 8 Frequently Asked Questions about California DUIs and Car Insurance, DMV Hearings in DUI Cases, and California DUI School.
An SR22 is a certificate of insurance. Your auto insurance company files it with the California Department of Motor Vehicles in order to confirm that you meet the state's minimum requirements for auto insurance liability coverage.
Once your California driver's license has been suspended or revoked... either because you lost your DMV DUI hearing or because you didn't request one,1 or because you got convicted of DUI in court... an SR22 is necessary to reinstate your driving privilege. It is an acceptable "proof" of liability car insurance for any DMV action that requires you to provide proof of financial responsibility.
Some examples of situations where the California DMV may require you to file an SR22 include (but are not limited to):
- Reinstating your driving privilege following a DUI or wet-reckless2 suspension / revocation
- Being involved in an accident when you were uninsured
- Reinstating your driving privilege after the DMV suspended / revoked it because it declared you a negligent operator (you may be declared a negligent operator if you obtain too many points on your driving record within a specific timeframe)3
Any one of these events require you to keep an SR 22 on file with the California DMV ...generally for a period of three years.
If the DMV requires you to maintain a California SR22, your policy must cover any cars that are registered in your name and/or all cars that you routinely drive.
If, following your DUI conviction, you will no longer drive, you don't need to file an SR22. If you intend to drive, but do not own a car... or otherwise have regular and frequent access to a family car, for example... you would apply for a non-owner's SR22 liability policy. A non-owner's policy covers you anytime you are given permission to drive another person's car.
Yes. When you are convicted of a California DUI, you are generally placed on probation, which means you must fulfill certain court-ordered obligations. DUI probation typically includes a requirement that you attend and successfully complete a California DUI school, and DUI penalties include a driver's license suspension / revocation of between six months and four years4.
Following your license suspension... and after waiting a specific number of days... the DMV may issue you a restricted license. A restricted license allows you to drive to/from work or school and to/from DUI school. The DMV will typically issue a restricted license for a first DUI offense if you:
- enroll in a California DUI school,
- file a California SR22, and
- pay a $15 restriction fee and a $125 reissue fee.5
The DMV will typically issue a restricted license for a second or subsequent DUI offense if you:
- enroll in DUI school,
- install an ignition interlock device (IID) in your car and promise not to drive any car without an IID6,
- file a California SR22, and
- pay the same restriction and reissue fees.7
If you abide by these terms, the California DMV will most likely issue you a restricted license for the duration of your drivers license suspension period.
If, following your California DUI arrest, you are certain that you are going to plead guilty, you may want to jump-start the SR22 process by asking your insurance company to file your SR22 immediately following your arrest. Initiating the process (rather than waiting until the DMV takes action) may help you get your driving privilege reinstated more quickly. (But always consult an experienced California DUI attorney as to the best strategy for reinstating your license quickly in you particular case.)
It should be noted that if you are convicted of Vehicle Code 23152a driving under the influence, and it was proven that you refused to submit to a chemical blood or breath test, you will be ineligible to obtain a restricted license.8
In order to obtain a California SR22, you must contact your car insurance company. Unfortunately, once you tell your company that you need an SR22, it alerts them to the fact that something significant has happened.
The company will then access your DMV record to find out why you need the form and will either (1) cancel your policy, or (2) issue you the certificate. If you obtain an SR22 from your current company, your rates will likely (though not necessarily) increase. Generally, your insurance provides the SR22 by filing a form electronically with the DMV.
Not all car insurance carriers provide SR22 coverage and, in fact, many do not. If your company cancels you... and you are therefore required to seek an SR22 elsewhere... you will likely pay a high premium, as auto insurance companies will now look at you as a "high risk" driver.
California law mandates that all drivers must carry auto insurance.9 As a result, it offers a program that matches you with a company that will insure you if you are unable to obtain an SR22 on your own. You can learn more about the California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan (CAARP) by visiting http://aipso.com/ca/ or by calling 1-800-622-0954.
Fortunately, a DUI isn't the only factor that car insurance companies consider before they make decisions about whether to raise your rates. Most companies will also look at your driving history, your age and driving experience, your marital status, and where you live.
For more information on how a California DUI will affect your auto insurance, see our related article on Top 8 Frequently Asked Questions about California DUIs and Car Insurance.
Like all other auto insurance policies, the costs associated with a California SR22 vary by insurance company. Typically, you can expect to spend anywhere from $300 to $800 for the policy, depending on your personal factors (such as your driving history, age, etc.) that were mentioned above and on the specific insurance company.
On top of that cost, you will also lose your good driver discount (assuming you had one), as California law prohibits DUI offenders from obtaining / retaining a good driver discount for ten years following the date of your DUI violation.
As an SR22 client, you will pay a higher premium for the minimum liability coverage required by California law because you have been labeled a "high risk" driver.
In addition, some insurance companies charge you between $25-$50 or more to file your SR22. You must also pay a $125 reissue fee to the DMV before it will reinstate your driving privilege.10
While a handful of states do not require you to file an SR22, most do. Even so, every state's requirements for filing it differ. This means your California SR22 is only valid in this state.
In other words, if you move from California to another SR22 state, you must obtain an SR22 in your new state. Once you have that policy, your new insurance company will relay that information to the California DMV so that the California DMV can then appropriately release your SR22 in this state.
If you move into a state that doesn't require SR22 filing, you will need to obtain a new policy, the limits of which are at least equal to your California SR22 coverage. Similarly, once you have that new coverage, California will appropriately release your SR22.
It is critical to have your new policy in place before you cancel your California SR22. If you don't, your California DMV record will reflect a lapse in coverage which could result in a new California license suspension.
In general, your SR22 status must be maintained for at least three years following a DUI related license suspension. You do not need to refile each year. As long as (1) your insurance company doesn't drop you after it issues your SR22, or (2) you don't cancel the policy, it will remain on file with the DMV until is it no longer necessary.
If you are dropped or cancel your policy, however, your insurance company must report that information to the DMV. In that event, in order to avoid a new drivers license suspension, you must immediately obtain an SR22 from another car insurance company. You must maintain uninterrupted coverage for the DMV ultimately to remove your SR22 status and reinstate your license.11
Along these same lines, if you fail to make a payment, your car insurance company may inform the DMV that you no longer have an SR22, which will also trigger a new license suspension unless you re-file the SR22.
If you have additional questions, or would like to discuss your case confidentially with one of our California DUI attorneys, please don't hesitate to contact us.
We have local DUI law offices in the San Francisco Bay area, San Jose, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Bernardino, Riverside, and many surrounding areas.
For information about Nevada SR 22 insurance, go to our article on Nevada SR 22 insurance.
1 DMV DUI hearings, also known as administrative per se hearings, must be requested within 10 days of a DUI arrest. The DMV DUI hearing allows you the opportunity to contest your driver's license suspension / revocation that would otherwise automatically be imposed in connection with your California DUI arrest.
2 California Vehicle Code 23103 per 23103.5 VC is known as a "wet reckless" and is an offense that may be negotiated for during a California DUI plea bargain.
3 Under California's negligent operator treatment system, your license will be suspended or revoked if you accumulate 4 points within any 12 month period, 6 points within any 24 month period, or 8 points within any 36 month period.
4 One of California's DUI penalties is actually enforced through the DMV. The DMV suspends your driver's license for six months for a first DUI offense, two years for a second DUI offense, three years for a third DUI offense and four years for a fourth or subsequent DUI offense under California Vehicle Code 13352 VC.
5California DMV website - ("Generally, if you are over 21 and enroll in a DUI program, file a California Insurance Proof Certificate (SR 22), pay the restriction and reissue fees, DMV will issue you a restricted driver license which allows you to drive to/from work and during the course of employment (unless you hold a commercial driver license) and to/from a DUI program. However, if you would be considered a "traffic safety" or "public safety risk" if permitted to drive, the court may order DMV not to grant you a restricted driver license. Other actions against you may also prohibit the issuance of a restricted license.")
6 An ignition interlock device (IID) is a mini-breathalyzer device that prevents the car from starting unless you provide an alcohol-free breath sample.
7 See endnote 5, above - ("Second and subsequent DUI convictions result in increased penalties, including a two-year suspension or a revocation of up to four years. After you complete a prescribed period of your suspension/ revocation and either enroll in, or complete a portion of, a DUI program, you may obtain a restricted license to drive anywhere necessary if you:  Install an IID on your vehicle.  Agree not to drive any vehicle without an IID.  Agree to complete the prescribed DUI program.  File an SR 22.  Pay the reissue and restriction fees.
8 Pursuant to California law, a refusal to submit to a chemical blood or breath test disqualifies you from receiving a restricted license. As a result, your suspension following a California DUI refusal is what's known as a "hard" suspension.
9 California Vehicle Codes 16000 - 16078 are known as the Compulsory Financial Responsibility Act and require every California driver to carry auto insurance.
10 California Vehicle Code 14905 -- Suspension pursuant to Vehicle Code 13353 or 13353.2 VC; additional fee. ("(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code, in lieu of the fees in Section 14904 VC, before a driver's license may be issued, reissued, or returned to a person after suspension or revocation of the person's privilege to operate a motor vehicle pursuant to Vehicle Code Section[s] 13353 or 13353.2, there shall be paid to the department a fee in an amount of one hundred twenty-five dollars ($125) to pay the costs of the administration of the administrative suspension and revocation programs for persons who refuse or fail to complete chemical testing, as provided in Section 13353 VC, or who drive with an excessive amount of alcohol in their blood, as provided in Section 13353.2 VC, any costs of the Department of the California Highway Patrol related to the payment of compensation for overtime for attending any administrative hearings pursuant to Article 3 (commencing with Vehicle Code Section 14100) of Chapter 3 and Section 13382, and any reimbursement for costs mandated by the state pursuant to subdivisions (f) and (g) of California Vehicle Code Section 23612.
11New DUI Reportability Requirements - ("What will happen if my insurance policy is cancelled because of a DUI violation? If your insurance policy is cancelled for any reason, you need to get new insurance right away, since it is illegal to own or operate a vehicle without liability insurance in California. In addition to proof of insurance for registration, if you are required to maintain a California Insurance Proof Certificate (SR 22) for your driver license, you will need to have your new insurance company file a new SR 22 with DMV immediately to avoid the suspension of your driver license based on the cancellation of your insurance proof certificate.")