California’s DUI laws can be complex and confusing. In this section, our attorneys break down the rules and explain the process.
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In general, it takes ten years for insurance premiums to go down after a DUI arrest. The ten-year period starts running from the date of the arrest for DUI charges.
The ten-year period is due to California Insurance Code 1861.025, which became effective on January 1, 2007. IC 1861.025 applies to both adult and underage DUI.1
Certain other “wet” violations (such as Vehicle Code 23103.5 “wet” reckless driving) remain on a defendant’s record for seven years.
When an insurer is considering selling or renewing an insurance policy, it will typically pull two sets of records:
Insurers decide whether to insure someone (and, if so, at what cost) based on their assessment of the risk the driver poses. Drivers who have a DUI or too many “negligent operator” points on their record are considered a higher risk than other drivers.
Some insurance companies will not issue a policy at all to a driver with a DUI on his or her record. Others will issue a policy but at “high-risk” driver rates. These higher rates can be as much as double, triple, or more than the rate for a driver with a clean record.
Unfortunately, no. While there are many benefits to expunging a California DUI, being able to lower car insurance rates is not one of them.
This is because while an expungement will clear a criminal record, it will not remove the DUI from the California DMV’s record.
So while the expunged conviction won’t show up on an applicant’s criminal background check, it will still show up on the Department of Motor Vehicles check.2
Yes. A DUI (or a wet reckless) will wipe out any preferred or safe driver discount. This may occur right away or when the driver’s policy comes up for renewal.
When a policy comes up for renewal, the car insurance company will once again pull the driver’s criminal and DMV records. The insurer may then cancel/refuse to renew the policy or may increase the rate at which the renewal is offered.
Once the ten-year period is up, a DUI conviction should no longer show up on DMV or criminal records.
It may take a month or so for the update to be reflected. We advise people to keep track of their ten-year DUI “anniversary.” Drivers can then request copies of both their criminal and DMV records to make sure the conviction has been removed.
Once the records are clean, we recommend contacting the insurer to make sure they have updated their records. They may be willing to implement the new rate right away. Or the driver may have to wait until the next policy renewal.
Drivers whose records have just become clean may also wish to comparison shop to see if they can get a better rate from another insurer.3
No. California’s 10-year “lookback” period applies to standard Class C licenses. Most commercial driver’s licenses are subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 (MCSIA).
That act requires a DUI to stay on a commercial driver’s record for significantly longer than ten years.
But this only applies to the driver’s commercial license. After ten years of clean driving, the driver’s rates for driving a non-commercial vehicle should come back down.
The best way for a driver with a DUI conviction to get a lower insurance rate is to shop around. Some insurers offer better high-risk driver rates than others.
And even if a “good driver” discount no longer applies, there may be other discounts available to the driver. Examples of auto insurance discounts a driver may still be able to take advantage of include:
Our DUI attorneys fight drunk driving criminal charges in Los Angeles and throughout the state of California in pursuit of no jail time and no license suspensions.
Disclaimer: Past results do not guarantee future results.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.