Drivers convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs face a range of consequences. Those consequences vary depending on the state the conviction took place, but they almost always include fines, a suspended driver's license, and a major increase in car insurance rates, plus a years-long mark on your driving record. However, there are ways to reduce the impact a DUI conviction has on how much you pay for car insurance.
DWI, OUI, DUI, DWAI, OVI: What they stand for and how they’re different
There are a variety of terms associated with driving after consuming controlled substances. Terms like driving under the influence (DUI), driving while intoxicated (DWI), or operating under the influence (OUI) typically cover driving drunk or under the influence of drugs, but have slightly different meanings between states.
In some states drunken driving qualifies for a DUI, but impairment from marijuana or other drugs counts as a DWI. Certain states define DUI and DWI as separate violations, where DUI is the less severe charge than DWI.
For the purpose of this article, DUI will be used as an umbrella term for DWI, OVI, and OUI.
Suspended or revoked driver’s license
Suspension of your driver's license almost always accompanies a DUI conviction. State laws differ on how long that suspension lasts, but it's usually a period of three to six months.
There are two ways this can happen: the state motor vehicle department suspends your license, or the court orders the suspension.
Refusing to take a blood-alcohol level test by either breathalyzer or blood test during a traffic stop will result in automatic suspension of your driver's license, no matter the ruling of your DUI case. So like in any traffic stop, it's best to do what the officer says.
It depends on state laws and specific circumstances, but first-time DUI offenders might be able to get their license reinstated in as little as 90 days. Sometimes the judge will place restrictions like only being able to drive to and from work on a DUI offender. Repeat offenders may face stiffer penalties: license suspension for a year or more, or outright permanent revocation.
How much a DUI costs
Besides being extremely dangerous, drunken or impaired driving is extremely costly, too. A DUI conviction leads to penalties, fines, and legal fees that you'll have to pay out of pocket. "In Ohio, a first offense for operating a vehicle under the influence can cost $7,000 or more," says Michael E. Cicero, a traffic lawyer with Nicola, Gudbranson & Cooper, in Cleveland. Cicero points to a few of the expenses drivers in Ohio can expect if they're convicted of a DUI:
- Fine of $500 to $1,000
- Court costs, $120 to $400
- Probation fee, $250
- Driver intervention program in lieu of jail, $300 to $400
- Legal fees, $1,000 to $5,000
How a DUI impacts insurance
In addition to fines and fees, your car insurance costs will increase after a DUI. How much they increase depends on where you live, but drivers convicted of DUI should expect their rates to double.
Penny Gusner, Consumer Analyst with Insure.com, says "One DUI will push your car insurance rates up between 40 and 200 percent. In North Carolina, it's a 300 percent increase."
DUI insurance rates by state
The laws of the state you live in have a major impact on your car insurance rates, and a rate increase from a DUI is no different. Even if your DUI occurred in a different state from where you live, it's going to follow you home. This table shows the average increase in car insurance rates after a DUI in each state:
|Average Increase in Car Insurance Rates After a DUI|
|State||Average Annual Rate||Rate with DUI||Extra Cost||% Increase|
|All data taken from http://www.insurance.com|
How to get cheap DUI insurance
Looking for inexpensive car insurance after a DUI conviction? You're out of luck. It's unavoidable that your rates will increase, but if you shop around you may find a less expensive option. Every insurance company calculates risk differently – some may immediately drop policyholders convicted of DUI, while others have plans specifically for DUI offenders. Doing the research and shopping around is the best way to ensure you're paying the best price for your car insurance. It could make a difference of several thousand dollars annually.
How long a DUI stays on your driving record
Like the fines you'll face, how long a DUI conviction stays on your driving record varies from state to state. Generally, it stays on your driving record for at least five years, but in many states it's much longer. In New York and California a DUI stays on your record for 10 years, but in Iowa it's even longer: 12 years.
How long a DUI affects car insurance rates
Again, the state where the conviction occurred impacts how long your car insurance rates will be affected. As long as it's on your driving record, it's going to increase your rates. The key to gradually reducing your rates to a normal level is to keep a clean driving record. "You can rebuild your driving record to show you've learned from your mistake and are a responsible driver," says Gusner. "In time, your rates will start to fall. It may take three, five or seven years, but you'll get there." Once the DUI is finally cleared from your record, shop and compare insurance rates to see if you can get a better price from a different provider.
Keeping your car insurance coverage after a DUI
It's necessary to maintain car insurance coverage even if your license is suspended after a DUI conviction. That's because insurers factor in continuous coverage when determining your rates. If you maintain continuous coverage with no lapses, you'll end up paying a lower rate in the end, so it's smart to keep paying even if you can't legally drive. If your license is suspended for a year and you don't pay insurance during that time, your insurance quotes are going to be astronomical when you start shopping for coverage again.
"If you own a car and will have people driving you around, ask if your insurer will allow you to add the person who will be driving you around as the primary driver, with you excluded. The policy will still be in your name so technically there is no gap in insurance coverage," says Gusner.
However, only certain insurers will allow this, so it may take some diligence to find one willing to meet your request.
All about SR-22
Drivers convicted of DUI, reckless driving, or driving without insurance are frequently ordered by the court to hold insurance policies exceeding the state minimums. These drivers have to prove these insurance limits before their license can be reinstated, which is accomplished with an SR-22.
An SR-22 is a document that your insurance company has to file with the state motor vehicle department to prove that you hold the sufficient coverage. If you miss a payment, cancel your policy, or otherwise let your coverage lapse, the SR-22 will be revoked and your license will be suspended again.
"If an SR-22 is required, make sure to tell the insurer since not all insurers file the form," says Gusner.
Non-owner SR-22 insurance
Non-owner SR-22 insurance can be a smart way to maintain coverage if you no longer own a vehicle. These policies require that you do not have regular access to a car and only offer liability coverage, so this type of insurance is frequently less expensive than a standard policy.
This article is adapted with approval from carinsurance.com: http://www.carinsurance.com/how-do-points-affect-insurance-rates.aspx