If you are convicted of driving under the influence ("DUI") in California, your insurance company will likely find out about the arrest when they check your DMV record before renewing your policy, or when you submit an SR 22 to reinstate your suspended driving privileges.
Your insurance company cannot raise your premium or cancel your policy in the middle of the policy term--but they are likely to do one or the other when the policy next comes up for renewal.
Finding auto insurance after a DUI is difficult but can be done. Your premium will almost certainly be higher, however.
For someone who has been arrested for DUI, questions about DUIs and auto insurance might not be as pressing as those about DUI penalties and the best ways to fight a California DUI. But they still are often high on people's lists, since car insurance is a major expense for many of us.
Below, our California DUI defense attorneys answer the following frequently asked questions about the consequences of a DUI arrest or conviction for auto insurance policies:
- 1. Do I Have to Report a DUI to My Car Insurance Company?
- 2. How Would My Car Insurance Company Find Out About a DUI?
- 3. What Is an SR 22?
- 4. Can My Auto Insurance Company Raise My Premium or Cancel My Policy Midterm Because of a DUI?
- 5. Will a California DUI Definitely Cause My Auto Insurance Premiums to Increase?
- 6. If My Premium Is Increased Because of a DUI, How Much More Will I Have to Pay?
- 7. What if I Can't Find Anyone to Insure Me after My DUI?
- 8. If My DUI Is Reduced to a Wet or Dry Reckless or an Exhibition of Speed, How Will That Affect My Car Insurance Premiums?
There is no legal requirement that you notify your auto insurance carrier immediately after a DUI arrest.1
In almost all cases, there is nothing to be gained by reporting the DUI to your insurance company yourself.
For some people, an arrest--as opposed to a conviction--for DUI will have no insurance consequences. Maybe you'll win your case. Maybe your charges will be reduced during a DUI plea bargain. Maybe you'll prevail at your DMV DUI hearing.
Human and computer error may also result in your car insurance company never finding out about your DUI arrest or conviction--though this isn't the most likely scenario.
For many other people, though, their insurance company does find out about the DUI eventually--as discussed in Sections 2 and 3 below.
There are two ways that your California auto insurance carrier may find out about your DUI if you opt not to share the information.
The first way takes place when your auto insurance carrier runs a check of your DMV record.
Generally speaking, your auto insurance company will only check your driving record when your policy is up for renewal or when you are applying for new coverage. At either of these points, an auto insurance company will see all DUI convictions that are within a ten-year period.2
Similarly, any failure to appear (FTA) that is based on a DUI will also appear for a ten-year period.3 This means that even if your insurance company somehow missed the DUI, they would likely catch the failure to appear--which would result in them subsequently discovering your DUI.
The second way--discussed in Section 3--takes place when the California Department of Motor Vehicles requires you to obtain an SR 22.
A California SR 22 is a certificate of insurance--filed in multiple situations, including after a DUI--that confirms that you meet the state's minimum requirements for auto insurance liability coverage.
The minimum liability car insurance that California law requires you to carry is frequently referred to as 15/30/5. Simply put, this means that your insurance will pay up to:
- $15,000 for any one individual that you injure or kill,
- $30,000 total for multiple injuries or deaths suffered, and
- $5,000 for property damage.4
When the DMV suspends or revokes your license following a DUI arrest, it requires that you obtain SR 22 coverage before it will reinstate your driving privilege.5 Unfortunately, the only way to obtain an SR 22 is to get it from your car insurance company, who then forwards it to the California DMV.
There are a variety of reasons why the DMV might require you to obtain an SR 22, including
- a DUI-related driver's license suspension,
- being declared a "negligent operator", or
- having an accident while you are uninsured.
Regardless of the reason, your auto insurance company will require that you tell them exactly why you are requesting one--and thus will learn about a DUI arrest if that is the reason.
Quite honestly, though, it doesn't matter why you're requesting an SR 22, as all of these reasons, including a DUI, will adversely affect your insurance and label you as a "high risk" driver.
If your car insurance company doesn't offer SR 22s, it will simply cancel your policy.
Good news: California insurance law forbids car insurance companies from taking any action against your policy midterm. This means that if you get your DUI in the middle of your policy's term, your car insurance company cannot immediately raise your premium or cancel your policy.
The only times that your auto insurance carrier can make changes to your policy are:
- When you renew the policy, and
- When you are first applying for coverage.
In other words, if you have pending criminal charges for a DUI, your auto insurance company can't take any adverse action against you. But, if you are applying for new coverage at the time of your pending DUI charges, many companies will not issue you a policy.
Unfortunately, it is likely that your premium will significantly increase after a DUI conviction.
But this isn't necessarily the case. A California drunk driving conviction isn't the only consideration when determining whether to raise your premium. Auto insurance carriers will typically consider factors such as
- marital status,
- driving experience and driving history,
- place of residence, and
- professional organization affiliation,
in addition to your DUI record, before deciding to raise your premium or cancel your policy.
This is a difficult question to answer, as your insurance company will consider all of the above factors.
This much we can say for sure: once you have a California DUI conviction, you will not be eligible for a "good driver" discount for a period of ten years following your DUI arrest (not your DUI conviction).6
If you didn't benefit from a good driver auto insurance discount prior to your DUI, this rule really won't affect you. If you did qualify for a good driver discount, this is one of the reasons why your car insurance premium would increase after a DUI--by perhaps as much as 20 to 30%.
In addition, if you are required to obtain an SR 22 because of a DUI arrest, you will have to pay more for your auto insurance coverage as a "high risk" driver. This can cost anywhere from $300 - $800 per year for the average three-year period that you will be required to maintain SR 22 status.
That said, rates will still vary greatly between car insurance companies, even for drivers with a DUI on their record. It is a good idea to shop around for the best deal to help minimize your new costs. You may also want to call the California Department of Insurance to make sure that you are working with an insurance agent / broker who is in good standing.
According to Santa Barbara DUI defense attorney John Murray7,
"It should be noted that after you are once again eligible to receive a "good driver" discount on your auto insurance--which is ten years following your driving under the influence arrest--the DMV will automatically remove the DUI from your record. Then, at least as far as an auto insurance company is concerned, it's as if the DUI never happened."
It may not be easy, but you WILL be able to obtain auto insurance after a DUI. The state of California requires that all drivers carry auto insurance8--and, as a result, has a duty to ensure that everyone can obtain coverage.
The California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan is a program that matches you with a car insurance company that will insure you if you are unable to obtain high risk or SR 22 coverage on your own after a DUI charge. Although some of the major insurance carriers will not insure high risk drivers, including those with a DUI conviction on their record, there are many smaller companies that will.
8. If My DUI Is Reduced to a Wet or Dry Reckless or an Exhibition of Speed, How Will That Affect My Car Insurance Premiums?
For the most part, California auto insurance companies don't treat these common DUI charge reductions much differently than an actual DUI.
A California wet reckless,9 dry reckless,10 or exhibition of speed11--the most common DUI reductions--are all considered major moving violations, and all add two points to your driving record, which will in turn affect your car insurance rates.
Car insurance premiums are based, in large part, on how many points you have on your driving record. As a result, each of these violations has just as much impact on your auto insurance premiums as a DUI.
That said, there are long-term benefits to these DUI reductions. They are still certainly worth fighting for because they carry lighter penalties than a DUI. And unlike a DUI, a wet reckless, dry reckless or exhibition of speed conviction will only appear on your DMV record for a period of seven years.12
Call us for help . . .
If you or a loved one is in need of help with car insurance issues after a DUI conviction or arrest, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.
- California Vehicle Code 23152 VC -- Driving under the influence. California's main DUI law says nothing about a requirement that arrestees contact their insurance companies.
- New DUI Reportability Requirements, California DMV. ("Effective January 1, 2007, new legislation extends the reporting period for [California] DUI offenses from 7 to 10 years for all public requestors, including insurance companies.")
- Retention of Driver Record Information (FFTL 15), California DMV. ("FTAs for DUI offenses will be reported for 10 years from the violation date.")
- California Insurance Code 16056 -- Requirements of policy or bond [insurance requirements verified after California DUIs]. ("(a) No policy or bond shall be effective under Section 16054 unless issued by a [car] insurance company or surety company admitted to do business in this state by the Insurance Commissioner, except as provided in subdivision (b) of this section, nor unless the policy or bond is subject, if the accident has resulted in bodily injury or death, to a limit, exclusive of interest and costs, of not less than fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000) because of bodily injury to or death of one person in any one accident and, subject to that limit for one person, to a limit of not less than thirty thousand dollars ($30,000) because of bodily injury to or death of two or more persons in any one accident, and, if the accident has resulted in injury to, or destruction of property, to a limit of not less than five thousand dollars ($5,000) because of injury to or destruction of property of others in any one accident.")
- Unlike the California criminal court process, the DMV can suspend / revoke your license when you are arrested for a DUI if you are arrested pursuant to Vehicle Code 23152(b) Driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or greater. This will result in the need for an SR 22 and thus for you to notify your auto insurance company.
- See endnote 2 above. ("The new law allows [auto] insurance companies access to the driving record information to properly apply the new provisions of the Insurance Code established under Senate Bill 597 (2005), to determine a customer's eligibility for a good driver discount. Based on the new laws, drivers with a DUI violation occurring within the past 10 years are not entitled to receive a good driver discount [on their auto insurance rates].")
- Santa Barbara DUI defense attorney John Murray is a leading expert in California DUI law, including the implications of various DUI defense strategies and plea bargains for auto insurance. He has extensive experience both in the court systems of Los Angeles County and Ventura County and in California DMV hearings.
- California Vehicle Codes 16000 – 16078 are known as the Compulsory Financial Responsibility Act and require every California driver to carry auto insurance.
- See California Vehicle Code 23103.5 VC -- Wet reckless [charge reduction from California DUI that has the same effect on auto insurance premiums].
- See California Vehicle Code 23103 VC -- Dry reckless [charge reduction from California DUI that has the same effect on auto insurance premiums and availability].
- See California Vehicle Code 23109(c) VC -- Exhibition of speed [charge reduction from California DUI that has the same effect on car insurance premiums and availability].
- See endnote 2, above. ("...[A]ny DUI violation under California Vehicle Code sections 23140, 23152, or 23153 will report for 10 years [and will be discoverable by car insurance companies for 10 years]. There are some other non-DUI violations (e.g. 23103.5 "wet" reckless) that will report to courts and law enforcement for 10 years and may count against you for the purpose of determining increased penalties for repeat offenders, but will continue to show on a public driving record for only 7 years.")
See also California Vehicle Code 1808 VC -- Records open to public inspection. ("(b) The department shall make available or disclose [including to auto insurance companies] abstracts of convictions and abstracts of accident reports required to be sent to the department in Sacramento, as described in subdivision (a), if the date of the occurrence is not later than the following: (1) Ten years for a violation pursuant to Section 23140, 23152, or 23153 [DUI]. (2) Seven years for a violation designated as two points pursuant to Section 12810, except as provided in paragraph (1) of this subdivision.")