This booklet is provided as a courtesy and convenience to all who are affected by, or provide help to those in trouble by a Drunk Driving Arrest. The events following a DUI/DWI are stressful and intimidating.
Our purpose is to outline and define most of the relevant terms and requirements that face a person after a DUI arrest. This information is designed to be helpful not only to the DUI offender, but also an aid to counselors and staff personnel helping DUI offenders get back on their feet.
How We Got Here
Most DUI/DWI offenders are people who made mistakes in judgment. Several beers, a couple of drinks, a glass or two of wine are enough to become legally intoxicated in most states. We usually donâ€™t think these drinks affect us, but the law says we are impaired when our blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reaches .08.
We may have been pulled over for a taillight, a rolling stop, or speeding. The officer may have smelled alcohol, noticed some slurring of speech, or had some other reason to suspect you had been drinking. This gave the officer reasonable cause to conduct field sobriety tests and order you to submit to a Breathalyzer test.
Although rare, a person can get a DUI not operating a vehicle. People have been convicted of Drunk Driving because they were seated in a vehicle for which they have the keys. This is called physical control of a vehicle.
The cost, embarrassment, and inconvenience caused by the incident create painful memories. However, there is hope. Soon these memories will fade, and the important lessons from this unfortunate occurrence will be learned.
What Happens Now?
Most laws mandate that the DUI/DWI offender report to court or your state licensing authority, (DMV, DPS, DOL) within a period of 30 days. They will be required to attend an alcohol school or similar curriculum.
Be aware that there may be a deadline for calling the DMV to request a hearing on the suspension and to get an extension of the temporary license; for example, California has a 10-day deadline. At the licensing hearing, only a limited number of issues may be considered:
- Did the officer have reasonable cause to believe the driver had an illegally high BAC?
- The driver was arrested (or “lawfully detained” if age 21 or less).
- The driver refused a chemical test or a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test.
- The driver was informed that a refusal would result in suspension or revocation.
You have the right to consult a lawyer, particularly if you feel that Proper Law Enforcement Procedures were not followed. If this is necessary, it is best to hire an attorney that specializes in DUI/DWI defense.
What the Law Says
If valid grounds exist, and the offender was driving and the BAC test was .08 or more according to the officer’s reportâ€”most Vehicle Codes provide for a suspension of up to 4 months. If there are prior convictions within 7 years, the suspension can be up to 1 year.
Licensed offenders are then served with a state order of suspension or revocation which serves as a 30-day license. The suspension or revocation takes effect in 30 days. Did the officer have reasonable cause to believe the driver had an illegally high BAC?
Your license will probably be suspended for a minimum period of time. After the mandatory hard suspension, you may then get a temporary or restricted license to go to and from work and the alcohol program you have been assigned.
How Do I Get My License Back?
To get a restricted license after being arrested for a DUI you have to do 3 things:
- Show proof of enrollment in an approved DUI program.
- Show proof of financial responsibility (SR-22).
- Pay the re-issue fee to your state licensing authority (DMV, DPS, DOL).
Again, the laws of the state and the local customs vary according. Generally speaking, a conviction for a first offense may involve a fine, a license suspension or restriction, attendance at a DUI education course for a period of time and probation for perhaps three years. A short jail sentence may or may not be required; for a second offense, it almost certainly will. Additional punishment may involve community service, ignition interlock devices, AA meetings and/or impounding of the vehicle.
Proof of insurance (financial responsibility) must be maintained for a period of up to three years (from the date the original 4 month suspension would have been up). After you have enrolled in, or completed the course, and your suspension terms met, the process of selecting an insurance agent for the SR-22 insurance begins. Proof of insurance WILL stay active (and you need not re-submit an SR-22) if you do not cancel the policy or get dropped during the 3-year period.
What Happens if my Insurance and SR-22 Cancel?
The insurance policy and the SR-22 must remain in effect for three years. If, for any reason, your policy is no longer in effect, the insurance carrier is REQUIRED to notify your state licensing authority (DMV, DPS, DOL) and your license may be suspended automatically!
Your driver’s license may be suspended automatically. Remember, the insurance company that issued your SR-22 is required to notify the state if your SR-22 insurance cancels for any reason. If you have not provided the state with a new SR-22 certificate, the state will assume you are no longer in compliance with the law, and will suspend your legal driving privileges.
Driving While License Suspended
If you are pulled over while driving with a suspended license, Vehicle Codes authorize tow enforcement agencies to tow and impound vehicles for 30 days when driven by unlicensed, suspended, or revoked drivers. There is a possibility that the vehicle could be forfeited (taken from you by the state) if you have a prior conviction for driving while unlicensed, or with a suspended or revoked license.
What the State Requires
All states have laws determining the minimum or lowest insurance limits that are acceptable. These usually are the coverages that accompany the SR-22. For Example, Californiaâ€™s minimum limits are 15/30/5. 15 means $15,000 Bodily Injury Liability per person. 30 means $30,000 Bodily Injury Liability per accident (more than one person injured). 5 means $5,000 Property Damage Liability per accident.
Liability Insurance is protection from the cost of a lawsuit. You should always be able to buy higher limits of protection from the company providing your SR-22.
How Long Will I Be Punished for my DUI?
Court-ordered probation for DUI offenders usually lasts three (3) to five (5) years. During probation, offenders must keep insurance and an SR-22 on file for three years, and must not:
- Commit any criminal offense.
- Drive with any measurable alcohol in their blood.
- Refuse to submit to a chemical test upon request.
- Fail to pay a fine, assessment or restitution.
How Does a DUI Affect SR-22 Insurance Rates?
Your insurance rates are determined by many factors. Among these rating variables are: age, marital status, driving experience, driving history, and where you live. The SR-22 is only a certificate that proves you have met the stateâ€™s financial responsibility (insurance) requirements. Many insurance companies will not insure SR-22 clients, and those companies that insure this type of driver may have slightly higher rates. Generally, insurance rates can increase approximately 30%-40% from similar insurance with a Safe Driver insurance company