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SR-22 Requirements in California

Getting a serious traffic offense in California will result in needing SR-22 insurance to get back on the road. This type of insurance is significantly more expensive than regular insurance. Still, if you shop for the right insurer and follow certain tips, you can find cheap SR-22 insurance in California. Below, we discuss steps you can take to get lower rates.

What Is SR-22 Insurance?

It’s important to realize that SR-22 insurance isn’t actually a type of insurance. Rather, an SR-22 is a form filled out by your insurance company that guarantees you are carrying continuous insurance at the minimum coverage levels. An SR-22 is required after serious traffic offenses for drivers in California — it is another term for high-risk insurance or DUI insurance.

For insurers, filling out an SR-22 form is a way to help you prove to the state that you are abiding by the law and carrying adequate insurance. This provides a guarantee that you and your insurance company are financially responsible for accidents and damage on the road. It also automatically notifies the state if you change vehicles, lapse or cancel your insurance, or stop paying your premiums.

How Much More Expensive Is SR-22 Insurance Than Regular Insurance?

On average, you can expect to pay about twice as much for SR-22 as regular insurance. The reason is that this category of insurance policies is reserved for the highest-risk drivers — and with higher risk comes greater cost for insurance companies in the form of claims.

Usually, an SR-22 requirement comes from a severe traffic violation. While more expensive, there is a positive way to think about SR-22 insurance: it is a means to get back on the road when few other options are available. An SR-22 can often help you even after a license suspension or revocation. In other words, an SR-22 is a way forward, helping you build better history on your driving record.

So despite the fact that minimum coverage will cost more with SR-22 insurance, it is a necessary step to get back on the road after a serious offense.

Why You Might Need an SR-22 in California

The state can order you to carry an SR-22 if you choose to start driving again after a serious traffic offense. This form will allow you to legally return to the road and work toward regaining your license.

The following are some reasons you might need an SR-22:

Driving Under the Influence

A DUI in California is a serious offense. The California DMV sets the following blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits for a DUI:

BAC Limit Age Other circumstances
≥0.08% 21 years or older
≥0.01% Under 21 years
≥0.01% Any age On DUI probation
≥0.04% Any age Driving a vehicle that requires CDL
≥0.04% Any age When driving a passenger for hire
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You’ll also face the following penalties:

Nº of DUIs Levels Fines Jail time License suspension Probation period
1 Misdemeanor $390 to $1,000 + penalty assessments 2 days to 6 months 6 months (up to 1 year if you refused a substance test), though a restricted license + SR-22 is sometimes allowed 3 to 5 years + 3-month DUI school (9-month if BAC ≥0.20)
2 Misdemeanor $390 to $1,000 + penalty assessments 96 hours to 1 year, with house arrest possible 2 years + 1 year of ignition interlock device requirement with SR-22 3 to 5 years + 1.5 to 2.5 years of DUI school
3 Misdemeanor $390 to $1,000 + penalty assessments 120 days to 1 year; if probation, ≥30 days + 2.5 years of DUI school 3 years + 2 years of ignition interlock device with SR-22 3 to 5 years + 2.5 years of DUI school
4 Felony $390 to $1,000 + penalty assessments 16 months to 4 years
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In California, first-time DUIs can become felonies in certain circumstances. For instance, if another party is injured or killed in a first-time DUI, it could become a felony resulting in prison sentences between 16 months and four years.

If a DUI offense resulted in another person’s death, the charges become second-degree murder, negligent vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. These offenses can result in penalties ranging from a year in jail plus a $1,000 fine up to 15 years to life in prison.

If a driver has had a felony DUI in the past 10 years, the current DUI offense could also be charged as a felony.

Driving Without Insurance

It is illegal by federal law to drive without insurance, and in California, if you get caught without insurance, you could owe between $100 and $200 in fines for your first offense. For a second offense, this fine goes up to $200 to $500.

Getting Into an Accident Without Insurance

If you get into an accident without insurance in California, you are fully responsible for the cost of all damage — damage to vehicles, property, and people. If you are uninsured and the other driver has insurance, that doesn’t mean they will cover the costs. Rather, their insurance company is likely to sue you to make up for their losses.

For instance, imagine you are driving without insurance and get into a severe accident. The damages to both vehicles and medical bills total $70,000. If you are uninsured, you will be fully liable for those damages. The other party’s insurer will probably sue, and if you cannot pay but own a $90,000 home, you could lose it to cover the damages.

Reckless Driving

In California, reckless driving and negligent driving are serious charges. If you get a first-time reckless driving conviction, you will likely owe a fine between $145 and $1,000 and jail time up to 90 days. For a second offense, jail time increases to a maximum of six months.

After your first or second reckless driving charge, the court is likely to order an SR-22 for you to be able to drive again. Maintaining steady insurance with an SR-22 will be absolutely necessary in this case.

License Suspension

If the state of California has suspended or revoked your license, there are steps you can take to restore your driving privileges — sometimes more quickly than expected. The most important step once you’re allowed to drive again is getting high-risk insurance. This will require your insurance company to fill out an SR-22 form and file it with the state, which should be outlined in a letter from the state detailing the required steps. You may have to complete a defensive driving course, pass a test, and take additional steps to be eligible for SR-22 insurance.

If your license was suspended due to alcohol-related charges, the court would likely order you to take a mandatory alcohol-related course. You may also owe additional fees to the court, which tend to be higher for alcohol-related offenses.

Most importantly, when you are shopping for SR-22 insurance in California, be forthcoming with the insurance agent about your situation. It is crucial that they understand your situation, driving history, and criminal record in order to give you an accurate quote on SR-22 insurance.

Driving With a Hardship License

A restricted driving permit is often issued to a driver whose license has been suspended but who needs limited access to a car to attend school or work or take the kids to school. Also known as a hardship license, this permit gives you limited access to a car for day-to-day essentials. There are many restrictions surrounding this privilege, but it is generally available even if you have obtained a DUI charge.

A hardship license requires your insurer to fill out an SR-22 form, which tells the DMV that you are carrying up-to-date insurance meeting California’s minimum coverage requirements.

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How to Find Cheap SR-22 Insurance in California

Finding cheap SR-22 insurance is a matter of knowing how to look for it — as well as what extra steps you can take to lower your rates. Because this type of high-risk coverage can be expensive, having a strategy can help you find the cheapest SR-22 insurance possible. The following are helpful steps you can take:

Defensive Driving Class

A defensive driving course may be a mandatory part of your court order. Defensive driving courses are quite informative, and you may be required to enroll in one, attend classes, and pass the final exam before you can move forward. Another benefit of a defensive driving course is that it may make it easier to find affordable SR-22 insurance — both the court and potential insurers may see you as more likely to practice safe driving techniques after taking one. This means less risk and, hopefully, lower premiums.

We also recommend checking out different DUI schools and learning more about organizations like MADD and SafeRide America. Make sure you know exactly what the state is requiring of you and take that next important step toward regaining your license.

Get Quotes From Different SR-22 Insurance Providers

Shopping around is the single most effective step in finding cheap SR-22 insurance in California. You will find that different insurers may offer significantly different premium rates. You may also find some insurers are more flexible based on your charges and what steps you’re taking to get back on track.

Before your license is given back to you, you will need to have SR-22 insurance in place. Because the insurance company has to fill this form out for you and deliver it to the DMV, this means the first step will be signing up for insurance. Search online for a company that builds its insurance policy around your needs and delivers competitive rates. SR-22 Adviser is here to help you find the best rates.

Pay the Fees All at Once or Set Up a Payment Plan

You will need to pay your court fees — ignoring them will only delay your problems and make them worse. If you cannot afford to pay them all at once, you can set up a payment plan to pay them back over time.

How Long Does an SR-22 Last on My Record?

In California, you are required to keep your SR-22 for at least three years. Canceling your insurance, lapsing when you switch carriers, or failing to pay for your premiums at any time during this period can cause your driver’s license to be immediately suspended. Remember that an SR-22 alerts the state to such changes.

What About Non-Owners SR-22 Insurance?

You can find a cheaper option if you qualify for non-owners SR-22 insurance, which is cheaper than regular SR-22 insurance in the state of California. A non-owners policy is the most affordable option for those seeking to get back on the road after a serious traffic crime. However, this type of insurance comes with a set of qualifiers that could affect your eligibility:

You Must Not Own a Car

After a serious conviction, many people sell their cars since they would otherwise be collecting dust and depreciating. In order to qualify for non-owners SR-22 insurance, you would need to have a friend or family member who is willing to lend you their car every so often to take care of certain necessities.

You Are Not Allowed to Live With Someone Who Owns a Car

Because insurers depend on you not driving frequently to make a non-owners SR-22 policy more affordable, you cannot have a car that’s too easily accessible in your household. That means you won’t qualify if a live-in family member or roommate owns a car. The lower price of non-owners insurance is due to lower risk for the insurer — if you’re on the road too much, your likelihood of being involved in an accident rises.

You Won’t Qualify If You Are Ordered to Use an Ignition Interlock Device

A mandate to use an ignition interlock device disqualifies you from being eligible for non-owners SR-22 insurance in California.

SR-22 Will Help You Find the Best SR-22 Insurance in California

SR-22 Adviser is here to help you find cheap, reliable SR-22 insurance in California. This means you can get back on the road and closer to putting this difficult period behind you. Get a quote from our insurance partners online or over the phone and start the important process of shopping for the best deal available.