All states require motorists to carry motor vehicle liability insurance or another form of proof of financial responsibility. Financial responsibility laws ensure that drivers have the ability to pay for property damages and injuries resulting from vehicle accidents. In addition to a vehicle insurance policy, most states require motorists who have certain driving-related incidents—such as DUI (driving under the influence) or numerous traffic tickets—to obtain what's called an "SR-22 certificate" or "SR-22 insurance."
Although the specifics of SR-22 insurance vary by state, the purpose of the certificate is to enforce and monitor mandatory insurance requirements. This article provides an overview of the general requirements, range of fees, and potential penalties for failing to obtain and maintain SR-22 insurance.
An SR-22 certificate verifies the driver has at least the minimum required vehicle insurance coverage. But an SR-22 itself isn't actually an insurance policy. Rather, it's an addendum to an insurance policy under which the insurance company guarantees to the state that:
The insurance company files the SR-22 certificate directly with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Secretary of State, or other licensing authority.
In most states, SR-22 insurance is a requirement even if the motorist doesn't own a vehicle. There are generally three types of SR-22 certificates:
Of the three, an operator's-owner's certificate is the most comprehensive. A motorist who owns a vehicle but also drives unowned vehicles (such as a company car) might use this type of SR-22 certificate.
Common circumstances resulting in an SR-22 insurance requirement include:
However, each state has different laws that specify when a driver must obtain an SR-22.
The duration of the SR-22 insurance requirement ranges from one to five years. When the requirement begins and how long it lasts depends on state law and the reason the motorist is required to have the SR-22 certificate.
For example, if a motorist is required to have SR-22 insurance because of a conviction that carries a driver's license suspension, the requirement might begin on the date of the offense, conviction, or suspension. In states that require SR-22 insurance as a prerequisite for license reinstatement, the requirement generally begins on the date the suspension ends. And if the jurisdiction requires an SR-22 to obtain a hardship or probationary permit, the requirement typically starts on the date the motorist applies for the permit.
There's typically a fee of $15 to $30 to file an SR-22 certificate. However, the underlying conviction or reason a motorist is required to have the SR-22 generally leads to additional costs for the motorist.
For example, to obtain an SR-22 certificate, a motorist must purchase a vehicle insurance policy. Because motorists who need an SR-22 certificate are considered high-risk drivers, their car insurance rates are typically quite expensive.
The penalties for failing to obtain or maintain SR-22 insurance vary by jurisdiction, but generally include:
Driver's license and vehicle registration suspension or revocation. In some states, motorists must maintain SR-22 insurance for the duration of the license suspension. As long as the motorist maintains the SR-22 during the suspension period, the suspension is inactive and the motorist can drive. However, if the motorist fails to maintain the SR-22, the suspension reactivates and restarts from the first day of the original suspension.
In other states, motorists must maintain SR-22 insurance for a specific period of time following a license suspension. If a lapse in coverage occurs during that time, the DMV will resuspend the motorist's license and vehicle registration until the motorist provides proof of SR-22 insurance.
Ineligibility for driver's license reinstatement. Some states require motorists to obtain SR-22 insurance following a license suspension as a prerequisite to license reinstatement. In these jurisdictions, motorists who fail to obtain SR-22 insurance aren't eligible for license reinstatement at the end of the suspension period.
Increased duration of the SR-22 requirement. In jurisdictions where motorists must maintain an SR-22 continually for a specified time period, any lapse of coverage results in the SR-22 requirement re-starting from the beginning of the required time period.