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Last updated: October 17, 2023

Car Insurance in California With a DUI

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Out of the 9,964 people who died in car crashes in California in 2021, 3,090 were in vehicles where the driver was under the influence of alcohol, with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or 0.08 percent or higher. That’s nearly a third of all fatalities that year, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

California punishes DUI (driving under the influence) convictions with imprisonment, fines, license suspensions or revocations, SR-22s, points on your driver’s license, and even participation in a licensed DUI program. On top of that, the cost of your car insurance could more than double with a DUI conviction on your driving record.

DUI Laws in California

We’ve compiled all of the DUI penalties, according to the California Legislature.1


These are the penalties for private drivers, people driving for personal reasons. However, there are different penalties and BAC maximums for commercial and rideshare drivers. Instead of the standard 0.08 percent for drivers 21 and over, the maximum BAC is 0.04 percent for these groups.

DUI penalties by BAC 0.08% and higher 0.08% and higher 0.08% and higher 0.08% and higher 0.05% and higher
Age of driver 21 and older 21 and older 21 and older 21 and older Under 21
Offense number 1 2nd within 10 years of 1st violation 3rd within 10 years of 1st violation 4th or subsequent within 10 years of 1st violation 1
Minimum imprisonment 96 hours (at least 48 continuous unless it would affect person’s work schedule) 90 days 120 days 180 days None
Maximum jail time 6 months 1 year 1 year 1 year None
Minimum fine $390 $390 $390 $390 None
Maximum fine $1,000 $1,000 $1,000 $1,000 None
Driving privilege suspension 6-month license suspension 2-year license suspension License revocation License revocation 6-month license suspension
Participation in licensed DUI program Maybe Yes Yes Only if they have never participated Yes
SR-22 required Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Ignition interlock requirement Non-injury offense: Not required

Injury or vehicular manslaughter offense: 1 year

Non-injury offense: 1 year

Injury or vehicular manslaughter offense: 2 years

Non-injury offense: 2 years

Injury or vehicular manslaughter offense: 3 years

Non-injury offense:  3 years

Injury or vehicular manslaughter offense: 3 years

Non-injury offense: 3 years

Injury or vehicular manslaughter offense: 3 years

If 1 or more prior felony convictions:

Non-injury offense: 3 years

Injury or vehicular manslaughter offense: 4 years

Points on driver’s license 2 2 2 2 2


California’s ignition interlock requirement is part of a statewide pilot program. It applies to offenses that occur between Jan. 1, 2019, and Dec. 31, 2025.

Even if the court doesn’t order you to install an ignition interlock device, you can install one to get restricted license privileges. The other option to get a restricted license is to enter an employment/treatment program. With a restricted license, you’ll be able to drive to and from your job and DUI program. Both options require a $55 reissue fee as well as a $15 restriction fee.

Penalties for Underage Drinkers

Drivers under 21 can’t have any alcohol in their system, as the legal limit is under 0.01 percent. Aside from license suspensions, young drivers convicted of DUI may be required to participate in California’s Youthful Drunk Driver Visitation Program in order to discourage recidivism. During this program, they may visit trauma facilities, morgues, or coroners’ offices in order to see firsthand the consequences of drunk driving.

How Long a DUI Offense Stays on Your Record

A DUI will stay on your record for 10 years in California.

Are SR-22s Required?

You’ll need to have your insurance company file an SR-22 in California. An SR-22 proves that you have the state’s minimum required coverage.2 Your insurance company will file an SR-22 with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles for you. You’ll have to maintain it for three years following your reinstatement date, typically.

While the filing fee is only $15 to $40, SR-22 insurance is more expensive, as it designates you as a high-risk driver with a bad driving history.

How a DUI Affects Your Car Insurance

It’s no secret that, like many costs of living, car insurance in California is expensive. But that’s never more true than when you have a DUI on your driving record.

Average Costs

On average, the cost of car insurance in California after a DUI is 173 percent more than it would be for someone with a clean driving record. Here are the average rates by company:

Average annual cost of car insurance in California Clean record DUI Percentage increase
Overall $1,639 $4,477 173%
Mercury $1,449 $1,907 32%
GEICO $1,613 $2,447 52%
Esurance $1,055 $2,626 149%
Progressive $1,702 $2,710 59%
Farmers $2,022 $3,595 78%
AAA $2,068 $5,188 151%
State Farm $2,077 $7,286 251%
CSAA $1,356 $7,340 441%

Will You Be Covered?

Legally, insurance companies can cancel your policy if your license or registration is suspended or revoked, according to the California Insurance Code. However, companies must let you know at least 20 days before your policy expires. That way, you have time to look for new coverage. However, your coverage won’t work retroactively, so you may be responsible for your damages.

How to Find Car Insurance After a DUI

It is possible to find car insurance in California after a DUI, but it may be difficult.

Best and Cheapest Options

The cheapest and best DUI insurance companies in California are Mercury, GEICO, and Esurance, based on their low average rates (see above chart).


If you’ve shopped the market and can’t find a provider that will accept you, California offers the California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan as a last resort. Under the plan, you’re guaranteed coverage.3 Use the below contact information to learn more:

  • Website:
  • Mailing address:
    • California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan
    • P.O. Box 6530
    • Providence, RI 02940-6530
  • Office hours: Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. PT
  • Phone number: 800-622-0954
  • Email: caarp@aipso.com4


Another option is to self-insure your vehicles. However, that will require depositing $35,000 either in cash with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or in a surety bond from a California-licensed business. Call 916-657-6520 to learn more about self-insurance.

How to Save

Finding truly cheap car insurance in California may be next to impossible with a DUI on your record, but here are some ways you can keep your premium as low as possible.

  1. Get minimum coverage. California’s minimum car insurance requirement includes liability insurance only in the amounts of $15,000/$30,000/$5,000. Buying liability coverage only will be the least expensive option, but keep in mind that it will not pay for any of your or your passengers’ bodily injuries or deaths or your property damage. For that, you’d need medical payments and collision coverage, which will add to your car insurance premium.
  2. Bundle multiple policies. You can save money on multiple policies by bundling them under the same provider.
  3. Ask for discounts. You may be eligible for discounts for actions as simple as enrolling in paperless billing or usage-based insurance for low-mileage drivers. Ask your insurance agent for ways to save.


Finding high-risk car insurance is always possible in California due to the state’s assigned risk pool. That being said, you’ll definitely pay more than you would with a clean driving record. To keep your car insurance premium low and avoid penalties, make sure your BAC is under 0.08 percent if you’re 21 or over, or under 0.01 percent for those under 21, before you drive. Additionally, avoid reckless driving in any form, and make sure you have proof of insurance anytime you drive.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is California strict with DUIs?

While California has strict license suspensions and revocations following a DUI conviction, it is lax when it comes to fines and imprisonment. For example, no matter the offense number, fines will be between $390 and $1,000, and the maximum imprisonment is only a year, even with fourth and subsequent DUI offenses. Plus, each offense will add only two points to your driver’s license, which is relatively minimal.

How do you get a DUI dismissed in California?

To get a DUI dismissed in California, you will need to prove that you were not driving with a BAC of 0.08 percent for those 21 and over or 0.01 percent for those under 21. Common defenses include an incorrect breathalyzer test. Your best chance of getting a DUI dismissed is to hire a DUI attorney, as even a first offense could result in up to six months of imprisonment.

What is the process after a DUI in California?

  1. The police officer will forward your notice of suspension or revocation and your driver’s license to the DMV.
  2. The DMV will review the officer’s report, suspension or revocation order, and test results, like a breathalyzer test.
  3. You have 10 days to request an administrative hearing regarding your suspension or revocation.
  4. If you are scheduled to appear in criminal court for your DUI charge, you must appear.
  5. If you are found guilty, you will have to face the penalties, including fines, imprisonment, ignition interlock requirement, etc.

How do I get my license back after a DUI in California?

  1. Finish the mandatory suspension period.
  2. Buy at least the minimum amount of insurance required in California.
  3. Have your insurance company file an SR-22, a form that proves you have at least the minimum, with the state’s DMV.
  4. Apply for a reinstatement online:
  5. Pay the $125 reissue fee. If you were under 21 at the time of the violation, the fee is $100.
  6. Show proof that you enrolled and completed a DUI treatment program via a DL-101 certificate of completion.


  1. Vehicle Code Division 11.5 Article 2. California Legislative Information. (1998).


  3. Automobile Insurance Information Guide. California Department of Insurance. (2018, Feb).

  4. California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan. AiPSA. (2023).