Do I Need To Notify My Auto Insurance Company That I Got Arrested for DUI?
There is no need immediately to notify your car insurance company of the DUI arrest. Wait to see what happens with the case. If you can get the DUI charges dismissed (or reduced), and win the DMV hearing, which many of our clients do, you most likely will avoid hikes in your auto insurance premiums or cancellation of the policy.
If I don't Tell Them, Will My Insurance Company Still Find Out? How?
In general, nobody automatically notifies your auto insurance company of the DUI arrest. But if you are convicted, the insurer will almost certainly find out, and will do so one of two ways. The first is periodic review. Most car insurance companies check DMV records every few years, or when you apply for (or seek renewal of) a policy. When they do a periodic check, they will see a DUI conviction or DMV license suspension (if they don't know already), and take action.
The second way the car insurance company will discover a DUI conviction is if you have to ask them for an SR22. If your California drivers license is suspended (either because of a DUI conviction in court, or because of losing your DMV hearing), the DMV will require you to provide an SR22 before reinstatement of your license. Moreover, you will have to keep a valid SR22 on file with the DMV for 3 years as a condition of maintaining your California drivers license.
Where do you get an SR22? From your car insurance company. When you go to the insurance company asking for an SR22, they will demand to know why you need it. Moreover, this will trigger them to do a DMV records check. They will discover that you suffered a license suspension because of a DUI, and take whatever action they deem appropriate.
What Exactly Is An SR-22?
An SR-22 is essentially a document, provided by your auto insurance company, verifying that you carry car insurance with at least the California state minimum liability coverage . The SR-22 indicates the expiration date of the policy, and a pledge by the insurance company to notify the DMV immediately if the policy gets cancelled before the expiration date.
Take an example. John gets convicted of DUI in April, 2007. He suffers a drivers license suspension. To get (and keep) his license reinstated, he must file an SR-22 with the DMV for 3 years. He currently has car insurance with State Farm . The policy expires in February, 2008. He must call State Farm, disclose the DUI conviction, and obtain an SR-22 to take to the DMV. He does all this.
Because he is required to file an SR-22 for 3 years, and because the policy expires in 10 months, the DMV will require him to provide a new SR-22 before the expiration date of the policy (Feb. 2008). If he fails to do so by the expiration date, his license goes back into suspension.
Suppose further that 3 months from now, John's policy with State Farm gets cancelled—either because he doesn't pay his premiums, or because they consider him too high a risk. When the policy is cancelled, State Farm must notify the DMV. The current SR-22 is no longer valid. The DMV will revoke his drivers license until he obtains a new, valid SR-22.