The SR-22 and FR-44

Until you need one, a SR-22 and FR-44 is generally something you won’t have ever heard about. But if you get a DUI, chances are you’ll learn about them. 

These are both certificates of insurance/financial responsibility that you may have to file for a number of years through your car insurance company if you live in a state that requires these.  Many states use the SR-22.  As far as I know, Delaware, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania are the only states that don’t use a SR-22 and only Florida and Virginia have an additional certificate, a FR-44.  The SR-22 does not require you to carry increased liability limits, but the FR-44 does.  Minimum liability limits for insurance vary from state to state. In Virginia, minimum limits are: bodily injury/death of one person $25,000, bodily injury/death of two or more persons $50,000, and property damage $20,000. In Florida, the minimums are $10,000 personal and $10,000 property insurance.  The SR-22 is simply a document that your insurance company would file with the state/DMV to provide proof that you’re carrying the proper, minimum state-required insurance.  The FR-44 provides proof that you’re carrying the required, higher limits of liability (VA- 50/100/40 and FL 100/300/50). If you have to get one of these, you generally file for about 3 years. However, if you’re eligible for a restricted license, you’ll have to file this before you’re granted one.  For example, in my case, my restricted license is granted for a year from my conviction date, so I had to file a FR-44 immediately and my true length of filing is 4 years.  The bad side to both of these is that your insurance company is alerted to your offense and your rates can increase as a result (with a FR-44, your rates will go up anyway if you aren’t already meeting the liability limits it requires). Some insurance carriers will drop you like a hot potato if you ask for one, though they may give you 30-60 days notice.

In the states where it’s used, the SR-22 is generally required when the the driver is found without insurance, driving with a suspended license, or if you get convicted of a DUI/DWI. In VA, however, they apply a SR-22 for the following:

  • Voluntary or involuntary manslaughter resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle.
  • Perjury, making a false affidavit to DMV regarding the registration of motor vehicles, or making a false statement on any driver’s license application.
  • Any crime punishable as a felony under the motor vehicle law or any felony in the commission of which a motor vehicle is used.
  • Failure of a driver of a motor vehicle, involved in an accident resulting in death or injury to another person, to stop and disclose his identity at the scene of the accident.
  • Operating or permitting the operation, for a second time, of a passenger automobile for transportation of passengers for rent or for hire, without a license.

Virginia requires the FR-44 for the following:

  • Maiming while under the influence
  • Driving while under the influence of intoxicants or drugs
  • Driving while the driver’s license has been forfeited for a conviction, or finding of not innocent in the case of a juvenile
  • Violation of the provisions of any federal law or law of any other state or any valid local ordinance similar to the above

Surprisingly, I’m having a tough time finding out what the specific Florida requirements for each certificate. I can only see that a FR-44 is definitely required for DUIs.

On a side note, I found this odd: In VA, if you kill someone in the ‘heat of passion’ while you’re driving, you only have to provide a SR-22 with no increased insurance limits. But if you drive under the influence, your rates double. Hm. Now, how is that right? I’m not debating whether or not they should lower the DUI liabilities, I just don’t know why voluntary manslaughter doesn’t carry higher limits. So, in a moment of passion, you can run over your husband/wife and kill them and not need more insurance but you do if, let’s say, you’d had two-three glasses of wine at dinner, were driving home, and got a DUI? Huh?

Anyway, here are some things you need to know if you live in a state with SR-22 or FR-44 requirements:

  • To get your license reinstated, you have to have coverage (per the SR-22 or FR-44 requirements), show proof of that through filing a SR-22/FR-44, and pay a reinstatement fee.  There may be other requirements.  In VA, I had to register with VASAP as part of this (per my paperwork from VASAP and the courts, this is part of my restricted license agreement, but per the DMV, I have to register with VASAP to get my license reinstated- no matter if it’s during the restricted period or beyond). 
  • Even if you don’t own a car and you get a DUI, you will have to get a non-owners SR-22 or FR-44 filing if your state requires one of these forms. These forms are required to get your license reinstated and not dependent on owning a vehicle.
  • From what I gather so far- and I could be wrong- it seems like even if you choose not to get your license reinstated until after your probation is over, you’ll have to file one of these whenever you do decide to get your license back (in the same state). It seems there’s no way around it.
  • If you get your license reinstated and then drop your insurance company after they file a SR-22 or FR-44, your company is legally bound to submit a SR-26 that tells the DMV that your insurance was interrupted.  Your license will probably be suspended and you cannot get your license reinstated without getting new coverage (or bringing your old coverage up-to-date), filing a new SR-22 or FR-44, and paying another reinstatement fee.  And your SR-22/FR-44 filing period will start over.  
  • If you switch insurance companies after you filed your SR-22 or FR-44, have your new company file the SR-22 or FR-44 before you cancel your old policy.  A gap in coverage/filing generally leads to a suspended license and you’ll have to pay the reinstatement fee again.  And, on top of this, a gap in insurance means your filing time for the SR-22/FR-44 starts all over again. 
  • If you are required to get one of these filings in your current state and move to another state where neither form is required, you still have to carry the SR-22 or FR-44 for the remainder of the filing period back in your original state.  I can’t tell if this is the case if you wait until your probation period is over before getting a license in another state.  My DMV paperwork says that if my reinstatement requirements are not met by a year from my trial, I will be listed as ‘unlicensed’.  So, if I’m unlicensed and wait until after my probation period is over, and then move to another state, do I have to still satisfy the SR-22/FR-44 and other requirements back in my old state before I can get a license in my new state?  I’m not sure about that and haven’t found much information on it. 
  • In some cases, you can get SR-22 or FR-44 through a company separate from your existing one.  Why would you do this?  It would keep your current company’s rates the same because they won’t be alerted to this issue (unless they pull your driving record and some will do that periodically when they renew your policy).  I don’t really see much point in this, personally, because you’d basically be paying for two policies for the period you have to file the form.  That seems pretty expensive. 
  • Larger, nationwide companies are more able to handle SR-22′s and FR-44′s.  Smaller, local companies may not have the experience (and may charge more than necessary as a result) or they may just not be equipped to do this.   I suggest you shop around.

I highly recommend that you call your DMV after your insurance carrier tells you they filed the SR-22 or FR-44 and just make sure it went through before you go in to get your license.  Filings are done electronically through your company and directly to the state, though sometimes they can fax them.  Some companies, though I’m guessing they’re few and far between, may offer SR-22s or FR-44s, but they aren’t set up to do the electronic transfer of information yet.  They would have to contact the state/DMV to get access to their servers (in VA, this information is available on the DMV website).  If you need to get your license quickly and the company hasn’t completed filing the SR-22/FR-44 yet or the DMV just hasn’t processed it yet, you may be able to just take a letter of declaration from your insurance carrier stating that they are filing or have filed the proper form.  My insurance carrier processes these forms within 24 hours.  The VA DMV confirmed that they had my FR-44 information 24 hours later.  Some companies may take longer and some DMVs may take longer to process this.  Your DMV will be able to answer questions regarding this.

I was very anxious about filing the FR-44, so maybe my experience will make you feel better:

Before my trial, my lawyer said that if I’m convicted, I’d probably need an SR-22. Now I know that should have alerted me that he’s not keeping up on everything. As of January 1, 2008, the FR-44 came into effect in VA. Anyway, I was looking up information on this online. All I understood was that this was going to cost me- big time. All the DUI-related sites were freaking me out saying that I might get dropped from my current insurance carrier or they may increase my rates by as much as $1000.  I use USAA and couldn’t find any information about whether or not they provided either of these documents or if they’d drop me. I delayed doing anything until about two weeks before I was required to get my restricted license because I was so worried.

What did I learn? Well, first, I found that there are reasonable rates out there. GEICO carries both the SR-22 and FR-44 and they offered me a rate that was $10-40 more per month (depending on what levels of liability I chose for my husband’s vehicle), even as a new customer and with not-so-great credit. Now, keep in mind that my driving record is pretty clean (other than the DUI) , and the last ticket I had was 3 years ago.  I also had a claim for my accident that was five months prior (the only accident claim I have on my record).  If you have a lot of tickets, unpaid tickets, lots of accidents/claims, your rate may be affected.  GEICO was the cheapest quote I got. Progressive gave me a slightly higher rate as did Liberty Mutual (Allstate would cover me, but it was a very high rate).  A company called Elephant Auto Insurance gave me decent rates, but I know little about them. But there I was, panicking that I’d have to go with some podunk company that would rob me of hundreds of dollars a month and then leave me hanging if I actually needed to file an insurance claim and it was all for nothing. So, this information made me feel better. I wanted to stay with USAA because I believe they are the best- I’ve had them for 22 years and they’ve never let me down. So, I made the call to USAA armed with back-up quotes from the three other companies just in case USAA dropped me. And guess what? They didn’t. In fact, my total increase was $20 for the remainder of the year (from March until July) for filing a FR-44. I had already been carrying even higher liability limits than the new, required ones, so my fees didn’t have to increase because of that.  My insurance had not gone up when I had my accident (when I was arrested for a DUI) back in November, either.The rep told me the new rate, which would come out in late June, would be higher, obviously, because the $20 increase was only for four months. I was so happy, I actually started crying when I got off the phone with them because this was one less problem. I had been wracking my brain trying to figure out how I was going to pay for this along with all the other fees and fines I’m paying/have paid.

One of the questions I still have, though, is what exactly does a SR-22 or FR-44 do in terms of a DUI? I understand how this applies, for example, if you’re caught without insurance and you have to file an SR-22- it’s a means for the state to make you prove you’ll have insurance for at least three years.  That makes sense to me.  But how does proving this help anyone or do anything if you got a DUI (and you have insurance and proved that when you were arrested)? I can’t seem to find any reasoning for this except one insurance site that speculated the state feels more covered in case you have another incident. How does that work?  The state doesn’t get insurance money unless they file a claim against me. Wouldn’t that only happen if I caused harm to a police officer’s vehicle, a police officer, or some other state employee? Or maybe if I ran into a state building? How likely is that? Enough to demand I carry higher levels of insurance? It would have made more sense if it was the state feels that the people would be better covered.  Am I missing something?  Honestly, so far the only reason I can see is it’s just another way to punish DUI offenders, plain and simple.  They hit you everywhere else- the court, the DMV- and the last place is your insurance.  But, again, it really doesn’t make any sense to make me prove I have insurance (when I already did at the scene).  And why do I have to carry higher levels of insurance in VA?  I guess the state feels that I’m an at-risk driver now, maybe that’s it, and they want to make sure if I have another incident, everyone is covered. 

One last thing: The non-owner SR-22 and FR-44 is something I find odd.  As far as I know, there is no state where you’re required to carry non-owner’s insurance (you don’t have to have this to rent a vehicle, but if you don’t have this and opt out of the rental company’s insurance, you’re not covered for any damage to the rental car).  If you borrow a friend’s car and get in an accident that you caused, you are not liable for the damages- the friend is (this is known as ‘vicarious liability’).  He took the risk of loaning you the car, so it’s his problem.  (Interesting side note:  If you live with a relative, let’s say your sister, who has auto insurance, and you borrow a neighbor or friend’s car and get into an accident- your fault- your sister’s insurance is liable for the damages.  The reasoning is that the ‘named insured’ includes anyone living at a resident that is related by ‘blood’, marriage, or adoption- even foster children are included).  If you get a DUI in a borrowed, friend’s car, how can they tag you with three years of non-owners insurance?  I guess if they had some minimal requirements for non-owners to begin with, I could swallow this a little better.  But since there are none, why on earth do you suddenly have to carry potentially expensive insurance?  And for three years?  I could see maybe one, but three? 

Well, as I’ve said before, I guess the state can do whatever they want.  Driving is a privilege, after all, and not a right.  But I just think some of this is overkill and, therefore, becomes a bit senseless in the end.  It sometimes feels like the state was scrambling to find more ways to punish people and realized that insurance was another way to hit ‘em where it hurts.

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