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How does a car insurance company discover a DUI conviction?

Whether a car insurance company discovers a DUI conviction depends on both the carrier's procedure for checking motor vehicle records, and the state where you live.

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Some car insurance companies check motor vehicle records only when you're applying for a new policy or once every three years. So, it's possible the insurer could miss the violation in some states. Your insurance company probably will not discover the charge if it is reduced in a plea bargain or you have a limited license suspension.

However, many states require drivers convicted of DUIs to obtain a form called an SR-22 from their car insurance companies. You will not be able to hide the DUI if you live in one of these states. To get your driver's license suspension lifted, you must present the form to the department of motor vehicles (DMV) to prove you have liability insurance. An SR-22 also requires the insurance company to notify the DMV if it cancels your car insurance. You'll have to prove you have liability insurance with an SR-22 form for three to five years, depending on state law, after a DUI conviction.

If your car insurance company is among those that don't offer SR-22 coverage, your policy will be canceled or nonrenewed, and you'll have to shop for car insurance quotes. Even if your insurer does offer such coverage, your car insurance rates are likely to rise because the DUI conviction marks you as a high-risk driver.

For more, see How a drunk driving conviction affects your car insurance.

Last updated: Jan. 16, 2012 Redesign Survey