It all started out so innocently…
You met up with a group of friends to toast the end of the work week, and before you knew it, you lost count of how many drinks you had. Once the night turned into the wee hours of the morning, you decided that you were sober enough to drive home. After all, you only had to make it a couple of miles. Unfortunately, that couple of miles was just long enough to get pulled over and arrested for DUI.
You’ve dealt with getting out of jail and getting a lawyer, but the criminal aftermath isn’t the only thing you need to worry about after a DUI arrest. You’ve also got to give some serious thought to your car insurance.
You don’t necessarily need to run out and immediately notify your insurance company of your arrest. At first, you may be able to wait and see what happens with your criminal case. However, this thought goes right out the window if you were involved in an accident and not simply pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence. If you got into an accident, your insurance company will find out about it very quickly!
Even if you didn’t hit anything, you may not be able to keep your insurance company out of the mix for very long. If you are required to get an SR 22 — a California certificate that confirms you have enough auto liability insurance to meet the state’s minimum requirement — you will have no choice but to contact your car insurance company.
SR 22’s are required in a variety of different instances, but the most common time for them to come into play is when your driver’s license is suspended or revoked after a DUI arrest. When your driving privileges are reinstated (which can be at least 4 months after your arrest, assuming this was your first DUI offense), you’ll need to get an SR 22 to prove that you have all of the necessary insurance to get back on the road.
Your insurance company won’t just hand an SR 22 over, though. Instead, they’ll make you tell them exactly why you need it. When you explain that you need it because of a DUI arrest, your insurance company will immediately flag you as a high-risk driver, and you’ll eventually have to deal with the consequences — like paying higher premiums, for example.
Unfortunately, that’s the BEST scenario! Some California car insurance companies don’t offer SR 22’s. If yours happens to be one of them, they will very likely cancel your policy.
Can they do that right on the spot?
Yes! Technically, your insurance policy is a contract between you and the insurance company. And, just like any other contract, it can be terminated at any time. Your insurance company may decide that it would rather cancel your policy than risk paying for your next claim. After all, once they’ve deemed you “high-risk”, they’re looking at you from the standpoint of WHEN you’ll get into an accident, not IF.
If your policy gets cancelled, you have a slew of new things to worry about. After all, every single car owner in California is required to have liability insurance. So, if you think the state won’t find out that you lost your insurance, think again! In fact, state law requires insurance companies to electronically notify the DMV of policies it has cancelled. Once the DMV is notified, you’ll have 45 days to get new insurance and submit proof of it. If you don’t, your vehicle registration will be suspended.
OK, so how hard will it be to get new insurance within that 45-day window?
It could be tough. You’ll need to find an insurance company that’s willing to write you a policy — which could be tricky if you’re just coming off a DUI arrest. It’s not impossible to find car insurance in this situation, but it will require a bit of persistence on your part.
One way to lighten your load is to turn to an insurance agent that works with a variety of different companies. That way, they can check with a bunch of insurance companies all at once on your behalf. In fact, this can be the easiest way to do some comparison shopping. Yes, we said comparison shopping! Just because you’re dealing with a DUI doesn’t mean you have to take the first insurance policy that’s offered to you. Your agent may be able to find a couple of opportunities, which means you’ll have at least a little bit of say in how much you wind up paying in premiums every month.
Once you’ve got your new insurance policy, you will need your new insurance company to file an SR 22 with the DMV. Only after that has been done will you be spared from having your vehicle registration suspended. For more information on how to get your license back after a DUI, check our blog and our resources section of the website!
Unfortunately, though, even after you’ve done all of this, the aftermath of your DUI isn’t finished just yet!
Thanks to a California law that hit the books in 2007, the reporting period for DUI offenses was increased from 7 years to 10 years. That means your DUI will remain on your driving record for 10 years from the violation date. Since insurance companies are among the people entitled to this information, you will suffer the insurance consequences of your DUI for an entire decade!
One of the biggest consequences you’ll suffer is missing out on the “Good Driver” discount. In California, car insurance companies are required, by law, to give a 20% discount to insureds who meet the state’s “Good Driver” requirements. But as long as you have a DUI on your record, you cannot qualify for a “Good Driver” discount — no matter how clean the rest of your record may be.
If you’ve always held “Good Driver” status, losing it will translate into a big increase on your monthly premiums. But on the other hand, if you didn’t qualify for “Good Driver” discounts before your DUI arrest, the rate increase may not hurt as much.
One important thing to remember — these provisions only apply to non-commercial drivers. If you have a commercial driver’s license (CDL), you will be bound to a different set of standards.
But what if you can’t find anyone to insure you after your DUI arrest? Are you completely out of luck?
No! Here in the Golden State, we have the California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan, a program that matches you with an insurance company that’s willing to insure you, even in spite of your DUI. While going through this program may seem easier than trying to find insurance on your own, this program was designed to be a last resort.
Bottom line — getting arrested for DUI can lead to all kinds of headaches, and that’s assuming you were simply pulled over and didn’t hurt anyone! If you enjoyed relatively low car insurance rates before your DUI arrest, it will be a very long road back to them.
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