There are many potential penalties that you may face after a DUI conviction, even for a first offense. At sentencing, you could face fines, jail time, a driver's license suspension, and a requirement that you participate in drunk driving education or counseling. There are also important insurance consequences of a DUI that may affect you for a long period of time after the conviction.
Risk Evaluation by Insurers
When a policy is first sold and when a policy is renewed, an insurer will typically pull both your driving record and your state criminal record. The insurer will determine whether or not to insure you and at what rate, based on their evaluation of the risk of insuring you. In other words, they will be assessing how likely it is that you will get into an accident that will lead to a claim based on the information that they find in the records. Drunk driving is considered to dramatically increase that risk, as are points for negligently operating a vehicle. However, each insurance company has its own rules and policies regarding DUI convictions.
In most cases, your rates with your existing insurer will go up if you are convicted of a DUI. You will likely stop receiving a discount for being a safe driver, even if you have a long prior record of being a safe driver. In some situations, the insurer does not immediately alter the rates, but the rates will change when the insurer checks your driving record at renewal time. You may be placed on a high-risk policy with substantially higher premiums to insure against what is perceived to be the greater risk that you will get into an accident.
Most states also have a requirement for drivers convicted of DUI to submit a form SR-22 from their insurance company to the DMV. This serves to provide proof to the DMV that you are insured after a DUI, and allows the agency to reinstate your license after a suspension. Not all insurers offer SR-22 insurance, so you may need to switch to a different carrier following a DUI conviction. Depending on your state, you may need to show proof of insurance for a number of yours in order to maintain your license after a DUI.
Denial of Coverage
Sometimes a DUI can result in the convicted driver being unable to secure a policy because the insurance carrier considers it to be too much of a risk. However, in other cases, an insurer simply charges different rates for drivers considered to be high-risk. These rates may be significantly more than the rate for a driver with clean driving and criminal records.
When they are denied coverage, drivers with DUI convictions may need to turn to different insurers. There are special insurance companies that focus on providing insurance to high-risk drivers, and those companies have rates that are significantly higher to address the degree of risk that you will get into an accident.
DUI by Another Driver in Your Vehicle
Sometimes teenage drivers are arrested and convicted of DUIs. If that driver is a named insured on his or her parent's car insurance policy, the parent's car insurance rates will go up. However, the rules are different when an adult friend borrows a car and gets a DUI. The friend's insurance rates will increase, but not the car owner's, unless the friend is a named insured on the policy. It may be possible to drop a named insured who is convicted of a DUI from the insurance policy in order to maintain a lower rate.
Lowering Insurance Rates After a DUI
Each state has its own laws about "lookback" periods in the DUI context. A lookback period is how long a DUI will stay on your driving record. In states in which there is a lookback period of seven years, for example, a DUI will no longer count on your driving record after seven years have passed, even if it remains on your criminal record permanently. For insurance purposes, your rates will typically go back down once the DUI is no longer on your driving record.
Each state also has its own laws about expungement of DUIs and sealing criminal records. When a DUI is expunged from someone's criminal record, it is removed from that record. However, some states do not permit expungement if there was a conviction, even if they do allow expungement for DUI arrests.