Updated: Aug 1
Getting into trouble on the road isn’t fun. Whether you have been convicted of a DUI, have been caught driving recklessly, or were the instigator of an accident, there is always a pretty substantial aftermath. While there are similar rules across the country when you find yourself in this kind of trouble, in the state of California you’ll probably be required to establish proof that you have car and liability insurance. This can be done with a form known as an SR22.
No one actually wants to be in this situation, as getting this certificate is often accompanied by increased car insurance premiums. Through this cost, SR22s can serve as painful reminder of the reality that you’ve done the wrong thing on the road. But remember, as inconvenient as they are, they won’t last forever.
Before we delve into the period of time necessary to have an SR22, it’s important to go over some of the crucial details around getting an SR22 certificate in the first place, like: what an SR22 form is, how you get one, how it’s filed, and how much it will cost.
Let's take a look:
What is an SR22?
This form is a type of certificate which acts as proof that you’re insured in California and other states as well. It lets the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) know that your insurer is providing you with the right coverage. It’s important to know that while some refer to this as California SR22 insurance, it isn’t an insurance policy. Instead, it’s your insurer’s guarantee that you at least have the minimum coverage required to get back on the road.
You’ll most likely need an SR22 if your license is restricted due to the following violations:
· Reckless driving.
· Receiving a DUI.
· Drinking and driving while being under 21.
· Getting into an accident when you’re uninsured.
· Not reporting an accident that results in bodily injury, death, or property damage worth over USD$1000.
· Having three or more traffic violations.
· Not paying what you legally owe if you’re sued after an accident.
An SR22 form is essentially an indication that you’ve made the necessary arrangements to provide compensation in case of another accident or road violation. It says that you’ve purchased at least the minimum liability insurance coverage needed in your state. In places such as Virginia or Florida there is a similar form known as FR44.
Nearly every state—with the exception of New Hampshire—requires drivers to have liability coverage. This covers injuries you cause to someone else in an accident, as well as property damage. The minimum coverage amount varies by state. (1)
An SR22 form is posted to your driving record at the DMV. In California you will most likely be required to have your insurance company submit this form to the DMV after having your license suspended or revoked as the result of a road violation. You can’t get back behind the wheel without one.
Where do you obtain an SR22?
You can obtain an SR22 through an insurance provider. This can be your current provider or any insurance company willing to do business with you. If you already have auto insurance, then your insurer can file the document for you in your state. There is a fee for this service that will vary from provider to provider.
Not all insurance companies will offer an SR22, and if this is the case with yours, you’ll need to reach out to other providers. If you do need to buy auto insurance, the provider will need to know about the SR22 requirement. For companies that offer an SR22, you’ll most likely be able to indicate your need during the application process. (2)
You can find a lot of relevant information online, as well as lists of providers in California that offer SR22 forms and will file them for a reasonable fee. SR22 Savings offers comprehensive services to providing you with your SR22 filing options.
How much does it cost?
The cost of an SR22 will vary depending on your insurance company, but it is often a lot more than regular auto insurance. It can also vary due to the driving offence you’ve committed. In order to obtain an SR22 you usually need to already be paying for things like liability coverage. If you’re a high-risk driver, this can push the price up.
You can always compare company quotes instead of simply going with your current provider, especially if their fee is substantially higher. Each company will evaluate your driving history and will charge according to your circumstances including history, age, and location. So, while you might find a reasonable quote, if you need a California SR22 insurance certificate, the average rate is USD$1592. (3)
How long does it stay on your record?
So, here’s the big question: how long will an SR22 stay on your record? The time frame can vary between states, based on their legal requirements, and can also depend heavily on the severity of the conviction. In California, most violations will only require you to maintain the SR22 filing for three years, but the more serious your infraction the longer the time frame. In some cases, reckless driving can land you a 10-year requirement. (3)
You need to maintain your car insurance coverage during this time period as any lapse can cause you to lose the SR22 filing or extend the requirement. It’s also important that you don’t have any more violations during this period as this may affect your filing too. That being said, you don’t need to refile your SR22 each year. It will remain on file with the DMV for as long as needed unless you cancel your policy or your insurance provider drops you after it issues your SR22 form. It’s the insurer’s job, however, to report this to the DMV. (4)
To avoid a possible driver's license suspension, you need to obtain another SR22 from a new insurance company right away. As indicated previously, it's very important to maintain coverage during this time for the DMV to eventually remove your SR22 file and reinstate your license completely.
Another factor that can affect this time period is if you fail to make an SR22 insurance payment. If this happens, your provider might contact the DMV and indicate that you no longer have an SR22. This can trigger a new license suspension unless you immediately re-file the SR22.
For A DUI conviction that requires you to enroll in an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) program, an SR22 will also need to be filed and held in place for that period of time, which can range from one to four years. (5)
What if I don’t own a car?
If you don’t own a vehicle, you still need to file for an SR22 if you are convicted of a road violation or DUI that’s led to your license being suspended. The only other option you have is to give up your right to drive, but if you do intend to get back on the road someday you will still need to file an SR22 in California.
Along these lines it’s important for you to know there are three main types of SR22 certificates for different circumstances. Your insurance company should be able to determine which one you will need. These options are:
· Owner’s policy certificate (covers cars you own)
· Broad coverage policy certificate
· Non-owner SR22 policy.
The last option isn’t usually available if there is a car you consistently drive but don’t own, such as your parent’s vehicle. This only applies if you occasionally drive other people’s cars with their permission.
If you don’t own a car, a non-owner SR22 will help you meet the state liability insurance requirement, but it’s tied to you as the driver and doesn’t apply to a specific vehicle.
One of the main benefits of a non-owner SR22 certificate is that quotes are often significantly lower in price than for an owner's policy certificate. This is because you only need liability coverage and the provider can assume you drive less frequently. As your insurance rates will likely increase after receiving a traffic violation, filing for a non-owner SR22 can help reduce your costs to keep your license, but only if you don’t regularly drive. SR22 Savings also offers reasonable options for your insurance and SR22 filing. (3)
If you reside in California and have had your driver’s license revoked or suspended due to a DUI or other motor vehicle violations, you will most likely need a California SR22 insurance form. SR22 is not an insurance policy but needs to be issued alongside one for the DMV to post on your driving record. Depending on your circumstances and violation severity, an SR22 will stay on your record for three to 10 years. It’s a necessary step to take to get back to driving.
An SR22 will be filed by your insurance provider if they offer one. If they don’t, you can seek alternative options by reaching out to a new provider who can file this form for you to the DMV. There are fees involved that will depend on your history, age, location, and the policies of the insurance provider.
If you find yourself in trouble on the road, make sure you prioritize obtaining an SR22 alongside the other necessary filings.
1. “Automobile Financial Responsibility Laws By State,” Source: https://www.iii.org/automobile-financial-responsibility-laws-by-state
2. “SR-22 Insurance: How To Get It (And Get Rid Of It),” Source: https://www.forbes.com/advisor/car-insurance/sr-22/
3. “SR-22 Insurance in California: What is It? How Much Does it Cost?” Source: https://www.valuepenguin.com/car-insurance/sr22-california
4. “SR22 Requirements After A California DUI,” Source: https://www.shouselaw.com/ca/dui/laws/sr22/#6
5. “Statewide Ignition Interlock Device Pilot Program,” Source: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/driver-education-and-safety/dmv-safety-guidelines-actions/driving-under-the-influence/statewide-ignition-interlock-device-pilot-program/