HOW A DUI CONVICTION CAN AFFECT CAR INSURANCE

It’s no secret that getting a DUI can lead to some serious consequences. But what many people don’t realize is that a DUI can also have a major impact on car insurance rates. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at how California DUI convictions affect car insurance rates. 

Since insurance companies typically view drivers with DUIs as a higher risk, they may charge you more for coverage. It’s important to understand how a DUI affects your car insurance so that you can choose the right policy and make sure you’re adequately covered. 

California Insurance Requirements

California requires all drivers to have minimum car insurance coverage. Drivers must have one of the following types of acceptable insurance coverage:

  • Motor vehicle liability insurance policy
  • DMV-issued self-insurance certificate
  • $35,000 cash deposit with the California Department of Motor Vehicles 
  • $35,000 surety bond with a company approved and licensed to do business in California

Most drivers choose to purchase liability car insurance from an insurance company. If so, the California Insurance Code §11580.1b requires minimum insurance amounts. The minimum car insurance coverage in California is:

  • $15,000 for the death or injury of one person
  • $30,000 for the death or injury of two or more people
  • $5,000 property damage coverage

You can purchase additional insurance coverage amounts and types of insurance. Insurance premiums in California are based on many different factors, such as your age, gender, marital status, coverage amount, type of coverage, and vehicle. 

Your driving record also impacts the amount you pay for car insurance. If you have convictions for drunk driving, reckless driving, wet reckless, DUI accidents, and other traffic violations on your driving record, you are considered a high-risk driver. High-risk drivers can expect to pay higher insurance rates than drivers who receive a “good driver discount.”

How Much Will I Pay for Insurance After a DUI in California?

Drunk driving convictions raise your rates for insurance. The car insurance rate you pay after a DUI conviction could increase by as much as 154% to 164%. The rate increase depends on the insurance company you choose and other factors. Therefore, it is always wise to shop around to find the lowest car insurance rate after a conviction for driving under the influence.

According to “The Zebra,” Mercury, Infinity, and GEICO provide insurance premiums for drivers with a DUI conviction on the lower side of the scale. However, Allstate, CSAA, and State Farm offered substantially higher premiums.

Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid car insurance increases after a DUI conviction. The best way to avoid paying more money for car insurance after an arrest for drunk driving is to hire an experienced DUI defense lawyer to fight the charges. If you can beat the DUI charges, you may avoid higher insurance premiums. 

If you cannot avoid a DUI conviction on your driving record, work with DUI lawyers to plead the charge down to reckless driving charge, speeding, or wet reckless. The car insurance rate may not increase as much for specific charges depending on the insurance provider. However, any charge that results in the designation of a high-risk driver is likely to cause your insurance rates to increase. 

How Long Does a DUI Conviction Stay on My Driving Record?

Drunk driving convictions remain on your driving record for ten years. The period begins on the date of your DUI arrest. The DUI expires and drops off your driving record at the end of ten years. Even if you were to have the DUI expunged from your criminal record, the DUI remains on your driving record.

How Long Does It Take to Get Normal Insurance Rates After a DUI in California? 

It can take up to ten years for your insurance rates to decrease after a DUI in California. 

Insurance companies review an applicant’s driving record when processing the insurance application. Therefore, a drunk driving charge can flag the application for potential high-risk insurance rates. 

However, some insurance providers begin decreasing within three to five years after a DUI conviction. An insurance company may consider how much time has passed since the DUI conviction. It may view a clean driving record since the conviction is a sign that you are no longer a high-risk driver.

You must pay the increased car insurance premiums if you want to drive a car under California law. You can work with the California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan (CAARP) to obtain car insurance when you cannot find an insurance company willing to issue you a policy. 

Reporting Your DUI Conviction to Your Insurance Provider

Generally, you are not required to report a drunk driving charge to your insurance provider. In addition, you may not be required to report the conviction for driving under the influence or the fact that your driver’s license was suspended. However, you are required to report accidents to your insurance company, including alcohol-related crashes.

However, do not assume that your insurance carrier will not discover your DUI arrest or conviction. Most insurance companies check your driving record when you renew your insurance policy. Likewise, all insurance companies check an applicant’s driving record before issuing a new insurance policy.

Insurance companies often discover a DUI conviction after an accident. The other individuals involved in the DUI accident file accident claims with your insurance provider. Your provider may cancel your policy or increase your insurance rates when your current policy comes up for renewal.

In some cases, you have no choice but to notify your insurance company about a DUI charge. You may need the insurance company to provide an SR-22 form to the California Department of Motor Vehicles so you can reinstate your driving privileges after a DUI.

What Is an SR-22 Form?

An SR-22 form certifies that you have insurance coverage that meets or exceeds California drivers’ minimum insurance requirements. If you have a DUI conviction, you may be required to maintain the SR-22 insurance for a minimum of three years. Losing your insurance results in the DMV suspending your driver’s license. 

Other Consequences of a DUI Conviction in California

In addition to increased insurance premiums, you face other consequences of a drunk driving conviction. For example, if your driver’s license is suspended, you could lose your job. Being unable to drive negatively impacts all areas of your life, including school, work, social, and family. In addition, if you qualify for a restricted license, you may be required to install an ignition interlock device, which can be costly. 

Additionally, it could be difficult to find a job with a criminal record. Some employers may look at a DUI as an indication that you might be unreliable or make poor choices at work. Finally, a DUI on your record could have a negative impact on child custody and visitation matters.

You also face criminal penalties for a drunk driving conviction. You may be charged with DUI if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is over the legal limit of .08% OR your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely is impaired by alcohol.

Driving under the influence of alcohol in California can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The criminal penalties you face for a DUI conviction depend on several factors, including prior DUI offenses and the facts of the case.

DUI Penalties in California 

Drunk driving charges are priorable offenses in California. That means if you have any prior DUIs on your record within the past ten years, the punishment for your current DUI charge is enhanced. Felony DUIs never fall off your driving record. 

Potential DUI penalties in California include, but are not limited to:

  • County jail or prison sentences
  • Fines
  • DUI school
  • Formal or informal probation
  • Mandatory ignition interlock device (IID) period
  • DUI school (mandatory alcohol and/or drug education program)
  • Driver’s license suspension or revocation 

A first-time DUI conviction can result in up to six months in county jail and a $1,000 fine. However, if you have a prior DUI on your record, your jail term could increase to a year. 

What Defenses Can I Use to Fight California DUI Charges?

DUI lawyers investigate the circumstances that led to the DUI stop and your arrest for driving under the influence. You may have one or more defenses to the drunk driving charges. Potential DUI defenses include, but are not limited to:

  • Challenging the law enforcement officers cause for a DUI stop or DUI arrest
  • Challenging the validity of the field sobriety tests because the officer made mistakes during testing or used non-standardized field sobriety tests
  • A medical condition resulted in a false BAC reading or caused you to appear intoxicated when you had not been consuming alcohol
  • Challenging the results of breath testing and other chemical tests based on equipment failure or operator error
  • Offering evidence that the samples taken for a chemical BAC test were contaminated or the officers failed to maintain the chain of evidence 
  • Alleging you were not operating the motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol 
  • Arguing that you were sitting in the vehicle and not driving at the time of your arrest

If the police officers or a prosecutor violated your civil rights, the evidence collected against you could be inadmissible in court. Without evidence, the state may not be able to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. If so, the judge may dismiss the case.

Being arrested for driving under the influence is a serious matter. You should treat the arrest as you would any other criminal matter. It is best to exercise your right to remain silent. Talking to the police can only provide more evidence to use against you. As soon as possible, consult with a DUI defense lawyer to determine the best way to protect your freedom and other rights. 

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