After a DUI conviction, drivers may find it more challenging to get insurance. Those drivers that do are often covered by what they call DUI insurance; however, there is no such thing as DUI insurance per se. Insurance providers who specialize in insuring high-risk individuals, like those convicted of a DUI, may market DUI insurance as an accessible and affordable option for high-risk drivers. Many newly established insurance providers offer this line of coverage to help drivers get back on the road and on with their lives, so shop around for the best rates.
Traffic accidents are the leading cause of non-natural deaths in the U.S. today. Distracted drivers and driving while under the influence (DUIs) of intoxicants are the top contributors to this trend. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration carries the mission to “save lives, prevent injuries, reduce vehicle-related crashes.” It reports that drunk driving results in the death of a person nearly every hour:
Every day, about 28 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes — that’s one person every 52 minutes. In 2019, these deaths reached the lowest percentage since 1982 when NHTSA started reporting alcohol data — but still 10,142 people lost their lives. These deaths were all preventable. (NHTSA)
Driving under the influence introduces catastrophic risks for everyone on the road, and it is a severe violation of the law, not to mention the heavy penalties against those drivers who are caught. You should never drive under the influence, instead, take a taxi or use a ride app or select a designated driver if you plan on drinking out. Below will cover what a DUI is, what it means for drivers, and the penalties they will face if they violate the law.
What is a DUI?
A DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence and refers to driving while legally intoxicated or under the influence of narcotics or prescription medications. Prescription drugs like muscle relaxers impair a driver’s ability to react on the road, and having a prescription from a doctor is not an acceptable defense in court.
It is illegal to drive while intoxicated in every state, and the penalties for drivers who break these laws are steep. The legal limit for intoxication across the board is a BAC of 0.08% or a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%. But penalties can begin at as little as 0.02%.
In a word of caution, it doesn’t take many drinks to reach a BAC of 0.08%. Depending on the type of alcohol (liquor, beer, or wine), gender, and lean weight, it could take a drinker as little as one drink or five drinks in an hour to reach 0.08%. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), consuming 2.5 drinks for males and 2 drinks for females in an hour is easily enough to bring BAC to 0.08%.
Contrary to what might be popularly believed, your drinking tolerance doesn’t matter. Even if you feel you consider yourself a veteran drinker, a high tolerance simply means you need a higher BAC to experience the same effects. In actuality, a high tolerance works against you because if you’ve been drinking but feel normal and get behind the wheel, already you could have exceeded the legal limit but unable to tell. Exceeding the legal limit can incur severe penalties, including extended jail time, DUI school, and community service.
Do I need to take the breathalyzer test if the police pull me over?
Yes. The trend for the past few decades has been to tighten laws on drunk driving, legal limits used to be 0.15% before they were reduced to 0.08%. A part of enforcement measures is the police’s ability to require a field test and chemical breathalyzer test of drivers suspected of driving intoxicated.
Because of laws of “implied consent,” you are bound by specific rules when you drive your car, even though you don’t explicitly agree to them. Exactly as the law protects people within its jurisdiction without their explicit agreement, when you apply for a driver’s license, as a motorist, you consent to the rules of the road. That means you’ve already given consent to field sobriety tests and chemical tests by the act of driving.
Because the law is trying to make it harder for drunk drivers, refusal to submit to field tests and breathalyzers has penalties. Suppose the requesting police officer has reasonable suspicion that the driver is under the influence, and the driver refuses. In that case, they can be charged with a DUI for refusal or have an automatic suspension of their license and additional penalties and possible jail time.
What’s the Difference Between a DUI, DWI, DWAI, OVUII?
Most of the acronyms associated with DUIs, like DWI, DWAI, and OVUII, are used interchangeably to mean the same thing as driving under the influence. However, below are some distinctions that may be honored by different state, county, and city laws.
- DUI — Driving Under the Influence is the most common reference to driving intoxicated with a BAC greater than 0.08%
- DWI — Driving While Intoxicated is often interchangeably used with DUI. However, in some jurisdictions, it may specifically refer to driving with a BAC greater than 0.08%, whereas a DUI would be driving with a BAC of less than 0.08%
- DWAI — Driving While Ability Impaired distinguishes between DWAI by alcohol, DWAI by drugs, and DWAI by a combination. New York is an example that makes this distinction. Conviction of DWAI by alcohol carries a lesser penalty than DWAI by drugs or combination. While DWAI by alcohol has a maximum jail term of 15 days, DWAI by drugs (illegal or prescription) has a maximum term of 1 year. There are more penalties for each class.
- OVUII — Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence of an Intoxicant distinguishes between driving and operating. Simply being intoxicated and behind the wheel of a car can lead to an OVUII charge. However, juries will be asked to consider several factors to determine if the person charged was in control of the vehicle at the time.
- Where was the driver located? Were they in the driver’s seat?
- Where was the car located? Was it pulled off on a curb?
- Where were the keys? Were they in the driver’s pocket?
- Was the car engine on or off?
- Was the driver awake or sleeping?
How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Driving Record?
A DUI mark on your record can stay for years, depending on the state’s laws where the violation occurred. Depending on the egregiousness of the offense, a DUI may end up on both your driving record and your criminal record and require you to disclose this fact to future employers. First-time DUIs are often classified as misdemeanors, but if your BAC is significantly high, or you were cited for an offense like reckless driving, you could as well be charged with a felony. A DUI is a serious offense and can set a driver back significantly.
In most cases, a DUI is never removed from your record. “Taking a DUI off your record” doesn’t actually happen. What courts use is called the “look-back” period, and that period usually is 5-10 years. Some states have a lifetime look-back, like Texas. This means that prior DUI convictions within the look-back period can be considered in your ruling in subsequent cases.
Additionally, a driver will have points assigned to their record for getting a DUI. This amount can range widely—for example, Arkansas will assign 14 points that remain for three years, while California gives 2 points and suspends your license when receiving 4 points in a year. Also, additional penalties may be applied beyond points, like in Texas, which puts a DUI on a driver’s record for life, with an annual surcharge of $1,000 for three years.
Also, thanks to the Driver License Compact, once you get a DUI in one state, driving records in all the other states will show your conviction.
For your state points and penalties, see the table below.
How does DUI affect you and your insurance rates?
There are a few ways a DUI will impact your driving privileges after you receive a conviction.
- Your insurance rates will go up, or your insurance will cancel your policy and leave you to find DUI insurance
- Any jobs that require you to drive must be informed of your DUI status
- Your license will be suspended, but if your license hasn’t been suspended, then likely you’re one infraction away from suspension
How do I get my license back after a DUI conviction?
Regaining your license is possible if your violations are not severe. It’s best to seek specialized legal help for DUI convictions, which will increase your chances of successfully getting back your license. If you’re facing criminal charges, you will definitely need to have legal representation to help you navigate the courts. If your situation is not as severe as that, you will need to follow these steps or the appropriate procedure given by your DMV or court.
- Obtain an SR-22 — SR-22s are completed through an insurer who is willing to assign you a policy. An SR-22 is a notification to the state DMV that you carry at least the minimum insurance.
- Enroll in DUI school — DUI school benefits are state-dependent. If allowed, completing a sanctioned course can reduce your points. Many states do not allow taking a course to reduce penalties and points from DUI convictions.
- Obtain affordable auto coverage — A requirement of the SR-22, finding an affordable insurer is possible; however, your new premiums could be much higher, as much as 80%-100% higher.
- Install an ignition interlock device in your car — Many states require that you install an ignition interlock device to insure you only operate your vehicle while sober.
How long will a DUI impact my insurance?
Driver’s have multiple records, an insurance record, a driving record, and a criminal record. Because a DUI may wind up on several of these, it is difficult to determine precisely how long a DUI will impact your insurance in your state. Because insurers refer to your insurance record most often and have an average 3-5 year look-back period, you may begin to see your rates decrease after that time.
Penalties For DUI Conviction by State
|State||Min. Jail||Fines & Fees||Administrative License Suspension/Revocation (1st/2nd/3rd Offense)||Mandatory Alcohol Education and Treatment/Assessment||Is Vehicle Confiscation Possible?||Is an Ignition Interlock Device Possible?|
|AL||None||$600 to $2,100||90d/ 1y/ 3ys||Both||No||No|
|AK||Min. 72 hours||1500||90d/ 1y/ 3ys||Both||Yes||Yes|
|AZ||Min. 24 hours||$250 base fine||90d/ 360d/ 360d||Both||Yes||Yes|
|AR||24 hours to 1 year||$150 to $1,000||120d/ 24m/ 30m||Both||Yes||Yes|
|CA||4 days to 6 months||$1,400 to $2,600||6m/ 2y/ 3y||Both (Education if under 21)||Yes||Yes|
|CO||Up to 1 year (DUI), or up to 180 days (DWAI)||Up to $1,000 (DUI), or up to $500 (DWAI)||9m/ 1y/ 2y||Both||No||Yes|
|CT||2 days up to 6 months||$500 to $1,000||1y/ 3y/ permanent||Both||No||2nd offense|
|DE||Max. 6 months||$500 to $1,1500||12-24m/ 24-30/ 24-36m||Both||Yes||Yes|
|DC||Max 90 days||$300 to $1,100||6m/ 2y/ 3ys||No||No||Yes|
|FL||6 to 9 months||$500 to $2,000||180 days/ 5y/ 10ys||Both||Yes||Yes|
|GA||24 hours to 1 year||$300 to $1,000||1y/ 3y/ 5y||Both||Yes||2nd offense|
|HI||None||$150 to $1,000||3m/ 1y/ 1-5y||Both||No||Yes|
|ID||Up to 6 months||Up to $1,000||90d/ 1y/ 1-5y||No||No||Yes|
|IL||Up to 1 year||Up to $2,500||1y/ 5y/ up to 10y||Possible||Yes||2nd offense|
|IN||60 days to 1 year||$500 to $5,000||2 y/ 180d-2y/ 180d||No||Yes||Yes|
|IA||48 hours up to 1 year||$625 to $1,200||180d/ 2y/ 6y||Education||2nd offense||Yes|
|KS||48 hour min.||$750 to $1,000||30d/ 1y/ 1y||Either (not both)||No||2nd offense|
|KY||None||$600 to $2,100||90d/ 1y/ 3ys||Both||Yes||Yes|
|LA||2 days to 6 months||$1,000||90d/ 1y/ 2y||Treatment/Assessment||3rd offense||2nd offense|
|ME||30 days||$500||90d/ 3y/ 6ys||Both||Yes||Yes|
|MD||Up to 1 year (DUI); up to 2 months (DWI)||Up to $1,000 (DUI); up to $500 (DWI)||6m/ 1 y/ 18m||Yes||No||Yes|
|MA||Up to 30 months||$500 to $5,000||90d/ 3y/ 6y||Both||Yes||Yes|
|MI||Up to 93 days||From $100 to $500||6m/ 1y/ 1y||Both||2nd offense||2nd offense|
|MN||Up to 90 days||1000||90d/ 180d/ 1y||Treatment/Assessment – 3rd offense||3rd offense||Yes|
|MS||Up to 48 hours||$250 to $1,000||90d/ 2y/ 5y||Both||3rd offense||Yes|
|MO||Up to 6 months||Up to $500||30d/ 1y/ 1y||Both||in limited circumstances||Yes|
|MT||2 days to 6 months||$300 to $1,000||6m/ 1y/ 1y||Both||3rd offense||Yes|
|NE||7 to 60 days||Up to $500||60d/ 1y/ 2-15y||No||No||Yes|
|NV||2 days to 6 months||$400 to $1,000||90d/ 1y/ 3y||Both – in limited circumstances||No||Yes|
|NH||None||$500 to $1,200||6m/ 3y/ 5y-Indefinitely||Both||No||Yes|
|NJ||Up to 30 days||$250 to $500||7m/ 2y/ 10y||Both||No||Yes|
|NM||Up to 90 days||Up to $500||1y/ 2y/ 3y||Both||No||2nd offense|
|NY||None||$500 to $1,000||6m 1y/ 6y||Both||2nd offense||Yes|
|NC||24 hours (for level 5 offender) (however, if 3 aggravated factors are present — Level 1A — minimum of 12 months)||$200 (for level 5 offender)||60d-1y/ 1-4y/ 1yr-Indefinitely||Both – in limited circumstances||4th offense||Yes|
|ND||None||$500 to $750||91d/ 1y/ 2y||Treatment/Assessment||2nd offense||Yes|
|OH||3 days to 6 months||$250 to $1,000||6m/ 1-5y/ 1-10y||Treatment/Assessment – 3rd off.||4th offense||Yes|
|OK||5 days to 1 year||Up to $1,000||30d/ 6m/ 1y||Both – in limited circumstances||in limited circumstances||Yes|
|OR||2 days or 80 hours community services||$1,000 to $6,250||1y/ 3y/ Indefinitely||Both||Yes||Yes|
|PA||None||$300||Up to 1y/ 1y/ 1y||Both – 2nd offense||Yes||2nd offense|
|RI||Up to 1 year||$100 to $500||2-18m/ 1-2y/ 2y||Both||3rd offense||Yes|
|SC||48 hours to 90 days||$400 to $1,000||6m/ 1y/ 2y||Both – in limited circumstances||4th offense||Yes|
|SD||Up to 1 year||$1,000||30d-1 yr/ 180 days-1yr/ 1y or more||No||No||No|
|TN||48 hours up to 11 months||$350 to $1,500||1y/ 2y/ 3-10y||Both – in limited circumstances||2nd offense||Yes|
|TX||3 to 180 days||Up to $2,000||90d-1 yr/ 180d/ 180d-2yrs||No||3rd offense||in limited circumstances|
|UT||48 hours min.||$700 min.||120d/ 2y/ 2yr||Both||No||Yes|
|VT||Up to 2 years||Up to $750||90d/ 18m/ permanent||Education – in limited circumstances||3rd offense||No|
|VA||Min. 5 days||Min. $250||1y/ 3y/ permanent||Both||Yes||Yes|
|WA||24 hours to 1 year||$865.50 to $5,000||90d/ 2y/ 3y||Both||2nd offense||Yes|
|WV||Up to 6 months||$100 to $1,000||15=45d/ 1y/ 1y||Both – in limited circumstances||No||Yes|
|WI||None||$150 to $300||6m/ 1y/ 2y||Both – in limited circumstances||3rd offense||Yes|
|WY||Up to 6 months||Up to $750||90d/ 1y/ 3y||Treatment/Assessment – 3rd offense||No||Yes|
How long do points and DUIs stay on record in every state?
|State||Record Lifetime||Points||Points Lifetime|
|Alabama||5 years||6 points||2 years|
|Alaska||For life||10 points||2 points off every 2 years|
|Arizona||5 years||8 points||3 years|
|Arkansas||5 years||14 points||3 years|
|California||10 years||2 points||13 years|
|Colorado||10 years||8 points||2 years|
|Connecticut||10 years||3 points||2 years|
|Delaware||5 years||Extra penalties||N/A|
|Florida||75 years||Extra penalties||3 years|
|Georgia||10 years||Extra penalties||2 years|
|Hawaii||5 years||No point system||N/A|
|Idaho||For life||Extra penalties||3 years|
|Illinois||For life||No point system||N/A|
|Indiana||For life||8 points||2 years|
|Iowa||12 years||No point system||N/A|
|Kansas||For life||No point system||N/A|
|Kentucky||5 years||Extra penalties||2 years|
|Louisiana||10 years||No point system||N/A|
|Maine||For life||Extra penalties||1 year|
|Maryland||5 years||12 points||3 years|
|Massachusetts||10 years||5 points||6 years|
|Michigan||7 years||6 points||2 years|
|Minnesota||10 years||No point system||N/A|
|Mississippi||5 years||No point system||N/A|
|Missouri||10 years||8 points||1.5 years|
|Montana||5 years||10 points||3 years|
|Nebraska||12 years||6 points||2 years|
|Nevada||7 years||Extra penalties||1 year|
|New Hampshire||10 years||6 points||3 years|
|New Jersey||10 years||Extra penalties||N/A|
|New Mexico||55 years||Extra penalties||1 year|
|New York||15 years||Extra penalties||1.5 years|
|North Carolina||7 years||Extra penalties||3 years|
|North Dakota||7 years||Extra penalties||3 years|
|Ohio||For life||6 points||3 years|
|Oklahoma||10 years||Extra penalties||3 years|
|Oregon||For life||No point system||N/A|
|Pennsylvania||10 years||Extra penalties||3 points off per year|
|Rhode Island||5 years||No point system||N/A|
|South Carolina||10 years||Extra penalties||2 years|
|South Dakota||10 years||10 points||Varies|
|Tennessee||For life||Extra penalties||2 years|
|Texas||For life||2 points||3 years|
|Utah||10 years||Extra penalties||2 years|
|Vermont||For life||Extra penalties||2 years|
|Virginia||11 years||Extra penalties||2 years|
|Washington||15 years||No point system||N/A|
|West Virginia||10 years||Extra penalties||2 years|
|Wisconsin||10 years||6 points||5 years|
|Wyoming||10 years||No point system||N/A|