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What's an SR22? Life After a DUI

Fran
David Joy September 20, 2019

Also known as a certificate of financial responsibility, an SR-22 form (the "SR" stands for "safety responsibility") is required when a driver wants to reinstate their driver's license after it has been suspended, regardless of the reason for the suspension. In short, it is proof of insurance.

When Is an SR-22 Required?

Depending on the state, an SR-22 form may be required for the following offenses:

  • Driving with a suspended license
  • Failure to pay court-ordered child support
  • Not having insurance coverage when you've caused an accident
  • Conviction for a DWI, DUI or other serious moving violation
  • Receiving a significant number of traffic tickets in a short time
  • Fleeing the scene of an accident after hitting an occupied vehicle (hit-and-run)
  • Driving recklessly
  • Cancelled insurance
  • Falsifying insurance documents
  • Involuntary or voluntary manslaughter
  • Failing to carry a valid license or registration

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) and driving under the influence (DUI) are the same thing and include not just alcohol but also legal or illegal drugs.

What's an FR-44?

You may be ordered to file an FR-44 if you live in Virginia or Florida. The FR-44 (the "FR" stands for "financial responsibility") serves the same purpose as an SR-22, but the FR-44 typically requires a higher level of liability coverage than the state's minimum liability insurance.

Does an SR-22 Certificate Equal Auto Insurance?

There is no such thing as "SR-22 insurance." An SR-22 form is just proof of insurance, not the insurance itself. An SR-22 acts as a guarantee that you are insured for the state's mandated amount of liability coverage.

How Long Is an SR-22 Required?

On average, an SR-22 is required for three years, but the length varies based on the offense and the state. In some cases, it can last five years or longer. To find out how long your state law mandates SR-22 compliance, visit the website of your state's department of motor vehicles or the department of insurance.

Do I File the SR-22?

If you need to file an SR-22 because your license has been suspended, you will be officially notified by either the court or your department of motor vehicles. Your insurance company will not inform you.

If you require an SR-22, the law does not permit you to submit the document—that's your insurance company's duty. You can expect your carrier to charge you a filing fee.

So, when you receive your official notification, immediately contact your insurance company or insurance agent and tell them you need to get an SR-22.

How Much Does It Cost To File an SR-22?

By law, your insurance carrier must file your SR-22 certification each and every month that you are in the program. So, if your insurer charges $10 or $50 for an SR-22 filing, you will pay that fee each and every month. However, some insurers, such as Dairyland, do not charge a filing fee.

In addition, you are still required to pay the state's yearly SR-22 fee.

Not All Carriers Accommodate an SR-22!

Not all carriers will insure or continue to insure an SR-22 customer, and your carrier may be one of them. All insurance companies are in the business of mitigating risk, and some of them consider an SR-22 customer to be too much of a financial risk for the company's bottom line.

If an insurer rejects your application for auto coverage, your department of motor vehicles and, in some cases, the court itself may proffer a list of recommended insurance providers that can assist you in your SR-22 compliance.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners can also help you to find a licensed insurance agent in your particular state who will hook you up with a carrier that obliges SR-22 customers. To find out more, go to naic.org or compare rates with carriers who offer SR-22 filing.

Not All States Require an SR-22!

Delaware, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Mexico and Oklahoma do not have an SR-22 program. However, it is important to remember that all these states take DUIs, moving violations, accidents and driving without insurance very, very seriously. For example, the state of Missouri will suspend your driving privileges if you get eight points within an 18-month period—and that doesn't have to include a DUI at all! Even if you are not required to carry an SR-22, each of these five states will still levy heavy charges (fines, DMV points, court costs) and cause a spike in your auto coverage premium.

Will I Have To Appear in Court?

In order to get your driving privileges back, you will probably have to plead your case before a judge in court. To make your case as strong as possible, you should retain the services of a lawyer who has a background in this area of law. Your insurance agent is not qualified to represent you in court.

Regardless of the situation, most judges will give you the right to drive again, assuming that you get an SR-22 certificate to meet the law's demands.

When Will I Receive My SR-22 Certificate?

It can take 30 days or longer to receive your SR-22 certificate of financial responsibility, which will be sent to you upon payment. Until you have your certificate in hand, your license is still considered to be suspended, so don't get behind the wheel. If you do not receive your SR-22, you should contact your insurance agent.

Where Should I Keep My SR-22 Certificate?

If you are pulled over by law enforcement, you should have your SR-22 documentation in your possession. So, keep it in your glove box, along with your insurance card and registration.

If you are unwilling to keep any documentation in your car because you're worried about identity theft, you can use your smartphone to take and store pictures of your SR-22 certificate, insurance card and registration—just make sure all three documents are clear and legible so that law enforcement can document your information. This method's only snag is that your phone might be dead when you're pulled over!

Your License Will Be Suspended If Your Insurance Policy Lapses

If your insurance policy lapses while you are in the SR-22 program, your insurance company is required by law to notify the court or the department of motor vehicles, depending on the state. This lapse in insurance will put your case back to square one: You will have to re-apply for another SR-22 certificate.

To avoid any lapses in your auto coverage, you should not miss a monthly payment and you should renew your auto insurance at least two weeks before your policy expires. Don't count on your insurance company to remind you of this expiration date! In the end, you are solely responsible for your SR-22 compliance.

SR-22 and Car Insurance

If you already have auto insurance at the time of your license suspension, your current carrier will submit the SR-22 application. Of course, you could always elect to switch carriers, taking this opportunity to shop around to see if another insurance company has a better deal for your situation. In fact, many insurers offer incentives and discounts for new customers.

If your driver's license has been suspended due to a lack of insurance, you will need to purchase at least your state's minimum liability auto insurance before your new insurance carrier will submit the SR-22 paperwork. But please note that full disclosure is necessary: You must inform your new carrier that you are under court-ordered SR-22 compliance.

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Can I Switch Insurance Carriers During the SR-22 Compliance Period?

Yes, you can. But you must inform your new insurer of your SR-22 situation, and you must not allow an insurance gap to occur between your old and new policies.

What If I Move to Another Zip Code or State?

Always verify any changes in address with your insurance provider before moving, especially if you are under SR-22 compliance.

If you should move out of the state that suspended your license and issued your SR-22 order, you must contact the DMV office of your new state to ensure that you are acting in accordance with that new state's law.

In fact, your new state may waive the SR-22 penalty either because that state does not have an SR-22 program or because you have met the obligations enforced by your previous state. To obtain a waiver, you will most likely need an affidavit.

Will an SR-22 Hike My Auto Insurance Rate?

Yes. An SR-22 means you are a high-risk driver. Your annual policy may go up as little as $684 (Idaho) and as much as $3,390 (North Carolina), but you'll probably be paying between $1,000 and $1,500 more for your annual premium for the three to five years you need to file an SR-22.

After you've completed your SR-22 program, the cost of your annual premium should be lowered to reflect this fact. But it depends on the nature of your offense and, as always, your insurer.

Life After a DUI Conviction

Driving while intoxicated is completely irresponsible and morally reprehensible—and it's a serious blow to your financial stability. The law may consider your DUI conviction to be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on how many times you've been convicted of DUI and whether your accident caused injury or death. You will have to enroll in mandatory DUI classes and pay some stiff fines. You'll also need to figure out how to get your criminal record in order, with or without a DUI attorney.

Of course, the worst-case scenario is that you go to jail, your vehicle is impounded, and your driving privileges are permanently revoked. However, if you are somehow allowed to retain your driver's license after a DWI conviction, you can be sure you'll be paying much a higher insurance rate.

Post-DUI Rates by Carrier

Every carrier has its own way of determining a customer's risk profile, so every company will weigh a DUI conviction slightly differently. Here are five insurance providers' average hike in prices for a DWI conviction, all else being equal.

Carrier Average rate Post-DUI average rate
Allstate$1,896$2,888
Erie$1,141$2,409
Farmers$1,540$3,381
MetLife$1,923$4,002
Nationwide$1,533$3,478

Some insurance agents specialize in high-risk drivers and SR-22 filings, so having an agent comparison-shop rates with those carriers may save you lots of money.

Take a Driving Course

All SR-22 carriers can benefit by demonstrating safer driving behavior. If you change your driving habits, you will reduce your risk profile and the chance of extended penalties. What's more, many insurers will give you a discount on your premium for taking an approved defense-driving course.

A Cheaper Alternative: Non-Owner SR-22

A non-owner SR-22 filing fulfills the requirements of the SR-22 program, but there are two steep, painful conditions: You are not allowed to own a vehicle, and you are not allowed to drive a vehicle belonging to someone who lives in your household.

The upside of the non-owner SR-22 is that it allows you to still drive, albeit only a rented car or the car of someone with whom you do not share a domicile. If you cause a serious accident while driving someone else's vehicle, your non-owners policy will pay off the balance of the claim when the owner's policy has reached its liability limits.

The other attraction of the non-owner SR-22 is that it costs much less than going the SR-22 route: Your liability insurance rate will be much, much lower because, as a vehicle non-owner, you will be behind the wheel much, much less.

By the way, a non-owners SR-22 is not permitted if you are required to install an ignition interlock device.

Do I Still Need To Buy Auto Liability Insurance with the Non-Owner SR-22?

Yes, you still have to buy your state's mandated minimum liability coverage. Just like the SR-22 form, the non-owner SR-22 is only proof of insurance, not the insurance itself. However, since you'll be driving far fewer miles because you don't have a car of your own, your premium will not be nearly as high as the auto insurance rate associated with an SR-22.

How Long Is a DUI Conviction on My Record?

Your conviction for driving under the influence can last anywhere from five years to forever. The time period is different in different states:

Five years: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana and Rhode Island

Seven years: Michigan, Nevada and North Dakota

10 years: the District of Columbia, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, South Carolina, South Dakota, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming

11 years: Virginia

12 years: Iowa and Nebraska

15 years: New York and Washington

55 years: New Mexico

Permanently: Alaska, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Vermont

Insurance companies typically take into account only the last five years of your MVR record—that is, your "motor vehicle report." So, even if your DUI is permanently on your police record, most insurance companies won't count the conviction against you after five years.

SmartFinancial Knows All About SR-22 Compliance

If you need an SR-22 added to your insurance policy or you still need to purchase your state's mandated auto liability coverage, SmartFinancial has the answers. Using artificial intelligence and its proprietary algorithms, SmartFinancial compares hundreds of auto insurance policies to find you the lowest-cost coverage that meets your budget and insurance needs.

Just enter your zip code below or call 855-214-2291 to speak one-on-one with a licensed SmartFinancial insurance agent. You'll get real-time auto insurance quotes in just minutes—and it's free!

Get a Free Auto Insurance Quote Online Now.

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