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DUI Insurance Laws

DUIs, also known as DWIs, are issued when a driver is caught driving after they have consumed a certain amount of drugs or alcohol that has impaired their driving abilities to the point that they are endangering everyone around them.

DUI laws and DUI insurance laws have become more common in recent years, and DUI laws vary across the country.

In any case, the consequences of a DUI are far reaching, as they could include a prison sentence, jail time, insurance rate increases, a poor driving record, car insurance points on the license, and more. A DUI could drastically increase one’s auto insurance!

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What is a DUI?

Man drinking beer while driving.

The term driving under the influence is known as a DUI in most jurisdictions, but there are some others terms, such as driving while intoxicated (DWI), operating under the influence, impaired driving, and drinking and driving that refer to the same thing.

All of these terms refer to the driver of virtually any type of motor vehicle — car, bus, bicycle, motorcycle, aircraft, horse carriage, boat, or even certain types of machinery — being intoxicated by drugs or alcohol.

In order to be pulled over for a DUI, there must be probable cause to stop the driver, so there has to be something wrong. The incident usually starts when an officer spots or receives a report that a driver is behaving erratically, meaning they are speeding, weaving through the lanes, or driving in the wrong lane.

Sobriety checkpoints usually occur in areas that have a high incidence of DUIs or during certain holidays where people tend to consume a lot of alcohol. For people who have already been convicted of a DUI and have received an ignition interlock device, the machine can detect the presence of alcohol and alert the local authorities.

When a driver is pulled over, they will be at the mercy of the officer who will ultimately determine if they should be let go or arrested. If the person seems to be sober overall, even after having consumed a few drinks, then the officer may decide to release them.

However, if the person seems to be highly intoxicated and is unable to drive or function properly, then they will be asked to submit to some tests and possibly have the car searched for drugs or alcohol.

If the driver is actually found to be in possession of drugs in the vehicle, then that would likely result in an additional charge for drug possession, and drivers can also be charged if they have an open container of alcohol in the car as well.

Although few people realize this, once they receive their driver’s license, they automatically submit to any chemical testing for drugs and alcohol, whether it is through blood, urine, or breath.

It is possible to refuse a chemical test, but it will often lead to much more severe consequences than if the person had actually failed the test. Any chemical test results can and will be used against the driver in court, and they will help support the prosecution.

On the other hand, the attorney representing the driver may be able to investigate the circumstances of the chemical test to see if it was actually conducted properly, so it may be possible to have the results removed from the case. All of this depends on the circumstances and the advice of the driver’s legal counsel.

DUI is a common crime, but it harms numbers of people every year — many who have died due to an encounter with a drunk driver.

A drunk driver has the potential to cause many car accidents, and even if they do not actually harm anyone, they can still be arrested because they posed a high risk to themselves and to any other drivers or pedestrians who happened to be on the road.

The severity of the situation will increase any possible sentence and charges, especially if there is property damage, a car accident, or if someone gets badly hurt— or even killed — in the process.

Under certain circumstances, a conviction for DUI may not involve the actual driving of the motor vehicle if the intent to drive is already there. A DUI charge can be subjective and solely based on the personal discretion of the officer.

DUI Tests

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The DUI test that an officer performs is a field sobriety check. The sobriety check usually consists of a breathalyzer test that shows the blood alcohol content (BAC) of the driver. The BAC represents the percentage of alcohol in the system relative to the weight of the person.

In general, any BAC that is over 0.05 percent to 0.08 percent is considered to be enough to charge the driver with a DUI without any further testing.

In some states, there are zero tolerance laws for underage drivers. These laws state that drivers under the age of 21 are not allowed to consume any alcohol at all, so they only have to score anywhere from 0.00 percent to 0.02 percent, depending on the state.

Any offender — regardless of age — who has a BAC of 0.15 percent to 0.20 percent and over, will usually receive additional penalties for testing so high over the limit. Sometimes the officer will perform coordination tests, like having the driver walk in a straight line, recite the alphabet, or stand on one leg.

Also, in some jurisdictions, a suspect can be apprehended purely on the opinion of the officer, even if the suspect has passed some of the sobriety tests.

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Penalties

Because DUI laws vary from state to state, they can become complex, depending on the exact circumstances surrounding the incident and arrest.

In general, anyone convicted of a DUI can receive jail time, a prison sentence, probation, community service, court fees and fines, vehicle impoundment, or a suspension or revocation of the driver’s license.

In most states, a driver will have their license suspended even for a first-time offense, which means that they will be unable to drive for a certain period of time, like six months to one year.

Subsequent charges may result in the revocation of the driver’s license, which means that their license has been declared null and void, and they will have to reapply for a driver’s license after 1 year and then pay any fees associated with that.

Insurance coverage will likely become a problem, and the insurance company may even try to have an ignition interlock device installed into the driver’s vehicle to prevent the car from moving if the sensors detect alcohol.

Under certain circumstances, there is a chance that the DUI incident could restrict the driver for interstate and international travel.

Regardless of the severity of the incident, the driver is encouraged to obtain local, sufficient legal representation from a licensed attorney in the area who can suggest the best course of action for the upcoming legal proceedings.

In more recent years, most states have begun to the adopt the Truth in Sentencing laws that prevent people from getting suspended or reduced sentences. Thus, the convicted will actually have to serve the full sentence they are given without the possibility of parole or any other reason to leave early.

How does a DUI affect car insurance rates?

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Any type of DUI charge will usually have a negative effect on a car insurance policy. If there is a DUI conviction, then it will be shown in the driving record, which will then be reviewed by any current or future car insurance company.

As a result, the insurance company will consider the driver a high risk and increase their rates, decide not to review their policy, or even cancel the policy altogether.

Some insurance companies refuse to carry drivers who have a DUI at all, so it may be difficult to find another insurance company. Any car insurance company that does carry the driver will charge them high rates for at least a few years after the incident, and even life insurance policies rates will increase accordingly.

A DUI adds a lot of license points, and the license may even get suspended for a certain amount of time, depending on the state.

Many states will also require the driver to file a document called an SR-22. An SR-22 states that the driver has the financial responsibility for any and all damage they have caused.

The insurance company can file the SR-22 on behalf of the driver, or if the driver is actually convicted for a DUI in certain states that require SR-22 insurance, then they will have to file the document for 3-5 years after the incident occurred.

In some rare situations, the insurance company may not be informed of the incident because particular states’ insurance does not require an SR-22. Sometimes it is difficult for the Department of Motor Vehicles and the insurance companies to share information, so the information could have been lost.

Oddly enough, at least 1 in 5 traffic incidents never end up on the driver’s record.

Also, if the driver gets a plea bargain for the case, then there is a possibility that it may not show up on the driver’s record, and thus, the insurance companies would not be notified. An attorney can also help alleviate the legal and insurance consequences, so it is best to have strong legal representation.

The Final DUI Details

Overall, DUI laws are intricate and complex because each state handles it differently. Though it is helpful to have a fundamental understanding of the DUI and car insurance laws, it is best to seek legal advice in the event of a DUI.

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