If I am convicted of drunk driving, can my insurance company raise my auto insurance rates?
UPDATED: February 6, 2020
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If you are convicted of drunk driving, your auto insurance company can raise your auto insurance rates. When most people are arrested for drunk driving, they are usually concerned about not going to jail. Unfortunately, that is just the first concern. Even though higher insurance rates are not a statutory punishment (like a fine or jail time), persons convicted of drunk driving are usually subjected to higher car insurance rates after conviction. Before you enter a plea of guilty to a drunk driving offense, you may want to review your situation with a drunk driving lawyer in your state. Whether or not your insurance rates will increase depends on the rules in your state, your prior relationship with your auto insurance company, the type of conviction you received, and the level of your conviction.
Insurance Rate Increase Rules
An auto insurance policy is a contractual agreement. A company agrees to insure you for a certain rate, subject to certain conditions. In addition to your contractual provisions, some states place limits on when and how an insurance company can raise your rates. You may receive some protection from your state laws, but more likely in the form of notice. This means they will have to give you so many days to prepare for the rate hike.
If you have been with the same auto insurance company for several years and have an ongoing relationship with your insurance agent, you may want to casually visit with them about the effect of a drunk driving conviction before you enter a plea. Your agent may be able to make some suggestions consistent with the auto insurance company’s guidelines that will keep you from being hit to hard, like pleading to a less serious charge.
How Auto Insurance Companies Treat Drunk Driving Convictions
How auto insurance companies will treat a drunk driving conviction with regard to auto insurance rates will depend on the type and level of the conviction. Technically, being placed on deferred adjudication is not a conviction. As long as you are on deferred adjudication, some auto insurance companies will not increase your rates as much.
The level of your drunk driving offense can also affect how high your auto insurance rates will be increased. If your drunk driving conviction was a felony, your rates are likely to go higher than a misdemeanor conviction because it shows a more serious problem with your driving abilities. If your auto insurance company is going to assume you at a higher risk, they are going to want higher premiums from you.
Alternatives to Drunk Driving Pleas
Whenever you are charged or arrested with any driving offense, you can expect your auto insurance rates to increase. However, you may be able to get creative with your defense attorney and plea to a different charge. For example, you may offer to pay a higher fine in exchange for the prosecutor allowing you to plea to a highway obstruction charge instead of a driving while intoxicated offense. If this is your first offense, you may be able to participate in a diversion court, where your drunk driving case is eventually dismissed if you comply with all of the program requirements.
What is an SR-22?
An SR-22 is an insurance document required by most states for high-risk drivers, including those arrested or convicted of a DUI. It is sometimes called a financial responsibility certificate because it guarantees that the driver can pay future claims up to the state required limit. The driver’s insurance company files the SR-22 with the appropriate state department (for example, the Department of Motor Vehicles, or the Department of Public Safety). Even drivers who do not own a vehicle may be required to purchase SR-22 insurance. And an insurance card or policy is not a substitute for the SR-22 form.
SR-22 Requirements Differ By State: A majority of states require the filing of an SR-22. But SR-22s are state specific and the requirements in one state may not apply in another. If a person moves out of state, the SR-22 must be maintained in the former state, even though they no longer reside there.
States differ on how long a driver must maintain continuous SR-22 coverage. Because the SR-22 is designed to monitor problem drivers, the driver’s insurance company notifies the state department if coverage lapses or is cancelled. Enforcement action for cancelled, terminated, or lapsed SR-22 coverage varies from state-to-state and may include driving privilege suspensions.
An attorney in your area that specializes in drunk driving violations can advise you of what programs are available in your area and which will help keep your auto insurance rates from skyrocketing after a drunk driving conviction.