Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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Benjamin Carr was a licensed insurance agent in Georgia and has experience in life, health, property and casualty coverage. He has worked with State Farm and other risk management firms. Benji is also a strategic writer and editor with a background in branding, marketing, and quality assurance. He has been in military newsrooms — literally on the frontline of journalism.

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Reviewed by Benji Carr
Former Licensed Life Insurance Agent Benji Carr

UPDATED: Mar 24, 2022

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To Sum It Up

  • DUI refers to driving under the Influence of alcohol or drugs and DWI alludes to driving while intoxicated or impaired by alcohol or drugs
  • Out of all the factors that can affect your driving record, a DWI infraction can have the most severe and long-term impact on car insurance
  • Auto insurance companies have strict policies regarding DWI charges, and drivers typically require an SR-22 certificate if they want to reinstate their suspended licenses and reacquire car insurance

Every two hours, approximately three people lose their lives in alcohol-related highway accidents in the United States. Driving while intoxicated is extremely dangerous for the driver, the passengers, and everyone else on the road and it can directly impact the driver’s insurance premiums for several years.

If you have served in any branch of the U.S. military and are using the benefits of veterans insurance, consider how a DWI charge can impact your auto insurance policy.

DUI vs. DWI

So, what is a DUI? The meaning of DUI is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and the meaning of DWI is driving while intoxicated or impaired by alcohol or drugs.

The detected drugs might not always be illegal. For example, drugs prescribed by a doctor or over-the-counter medicines could also lead to DWI charges. Both DUI and DWI indicate the driver’s dangerous behavior while driving.

If you’re wondering about the difference between DUI vs. DWI, there usually isn’t one — the terms are often used interchangeably. Only some states in the country have both DUI and DWI charges. Many states have one of the two laws, while several states use one blanket term, often DUI, for both types of charges. A DUI charge can be applied only when a law enforcement officer proves that the driver was intoxicated while driving.

Consequently, given the number of DWI cases in the U.S., car insurance companies have been reevaluating their policies over the last five years.

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What’s the difference between DUI vs. OWI?

Officers use a breathalyzer test to determine if a reckless driver is driving while intoxicated. The federal legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08%. If your BAC is higher than that, you are likely to be charged with a DWI offense. Some states, like Utah, can charge you with a DWI infraction even if your BAC level is 0.05%. If a driver is under the legal age of 21, they might get a DWI with a BAC as low as 0.01%.

Some states have a one-year license suspension and a $1,000 fine for both operating while intoxicated (OWI) and operating under the influence (OUI), while others have fines, license suspensions, and even jail time.

The states with some of the strictest charges for OWI offenses include:

  • Arkansas
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Wyoming

The Impact of DWI on Car Insurance

Car insurance is crucial for protecting you and your vehicle in the event of an accident or incurred damage. That’s precisely why almost all U.S. states require you to have auto insurance. However, out of all the factors that can affect your driving record, a DWI infraction can have the most serious and long-term impact on auto insurance, especially for veterans. If convicted of a DWI offense, you may have to pay a higher insurance rate for as long as five to ten years.

Once you have a DWI charge on your driving record, your insurance rates may inevitably increase, sometimes as much as double or triple the previous amount. The additional amount that you have to pay depends on multiple factors, such as:

  • your insurance company’s assessment of risks for drivers with a DWI record
  • your age
  • the number of DWI offenses on your record
  • the period that has passed after the DWI was added to your record
  • your driving history, including factors like the number of accidents or tickets

If your driver’s license is suspended or revoked, your insurer is likely to analyze your driving record before renewing your policy and assess whether or not you are likely to repeat such a violation. In some cases, the company might not renew your policy or could simply cancel your coverage altogether.

Some insurance companies have strict rules relative to canceling coverage for drivers with a DWI charge. Therefore, the companies interested in providing you with the best rates might not be able to help you after you receive a DWI infraction.

What can you do to get car insurance after a DWI charge?

When you need new coverage, you will have to ensure that you meet the guidelines for coverage in your state. In most states, you will require the minimum amount of liability coverage. The coverage requirements that you will have to fulfill include:

  • Bodily injury liability $25,000 per person
  • Bodily injury liability $50,000 per accident
  • Property damage liability $25,000 per accident

Drivers typically require the SR-22 certificate to reinstate their suspended license. The certificate is proof that your car insurance policy meets the minimum liability coverage required by law.

If your state necessitates SR-22 coverage, your insurance company should be able to provide it for a fixed fee. However, you must have the minimum liability coverage in order to obtain an SR-22 certificate. After obtaining the SR-22 certificate, your insurance company directly reports it to the state insurance department. Different states have varied guidelines for the duration of maintaining SR-22 coverage on your insurance.

When you approach a new insurer, explain everything about your driving record and convey your need for SR-22 coverage, in addition to the company’s liability insurance. Remember to inquire about discounts for veterans. If you don’t have any other violations on your record, except for the DWI, the new insurer might be able to offer you better discounts.

If your driving record contains several charges, it can be difficult to find a new insurer. Insurance companies that provide insurance to high-risk drivers might help you out, but at excessively high rates. In the worst-case scenario, the company can deny insurance to a driver if it establishes that the driver is at a high risk of violating the driving laws once again.

When the DWI offense is no longer visible on your driving record, you can revert to paying regular rates. In most states, the DWI charge remains on your driving record for three to five years. However, in stricter states like California, a DWI infraction remains on your record for up to ten years.

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DWI State Laws

The consequences of a DWI charge are different in every state, and the penalties also vary depending on whether it is the first or a subsequent offense. Here is a look at some of the DWI laws in different states across the U. S.

New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, the fine for the first offense can be up to $1,200. For the second and every subsequent offense, it can be nearly $2,000. The license expiration term for the first offense is two years, for the second offense it is three years, and for subsequent offenses it is for a lifetime. Also, drivers might have to serve one year each of jail time for the second and subsequent offenses.

New Jersey

In New Jersey, the fine for the first offense is $500, and the second and every subsequent offense is $1,000. In New Jersey, drivers charged with a DUI may go to jail for 30 days, even for the first offense. This duration is nine days for the second offense and 180 days for all subsequent offenses. Depending on the severity of the offense, your driver’s license may be suspended from anywhere between three months to 10 years.

Ohio

In Ohio, the fines are as high as $1,075, $1,625, and $2,750 for the first, second, and subsequent offenses, respectively. For the first and second offenses, drivers could end up in jail for six months each. For subsequent offenses, the duration is 12 months. Depending on the offense, your license may be suspended for three months to twelve years.

Texas

The penalties for a DWI charge are highest in Texas. For the first and second offenses, the fines are $4,000, and for a subsequent offense, the fine can be as high as $10,000. Even the duration spent in jail is substantial. For the first offense, you could face six months of jail time, for the second offense, a year, and for a subsequent offense, you could spend up to 12 years in prison. The duration for which your license can be suspended is one or two years.

Consequences of a DWI Charge

One of the biggest consequences of a DWI offense is the loss or temporary suspension of your license. In some states, drivers convicted of DWI may even serve jail time. In most states, the first-time offense is often considered a misdemeanor and the offender will not spend more than six to twelve months in jail. However, you could spend up to two years in prison if you are convicted of DWI for the second time.

Determining how a DWI can impact your car insurance requires expertise and detailed legal information. We recommend speaking with an expert to obtain personalized advice on how to manage car insurance after a DWI charge.

If you are seeking affordable car insurance, compare the insurance rates on Veterans Auto Insurance to obtain the best value for your money.