What is an SR-22 certificate?
The SR-22 certificate is often confused with proof of motor vehicle liability insurance, but they are not the same. Drivers who are convicted of certain traffic or administrative offenses may be required to maintain SR-22 insurance on top of any other penalties they incur following conviction.
The SR-22 is an addendum to an insurance policy, represented as a separate certificate that is given to the policy holder and to the Department of Motor Vehicles, or DMV. It is provided by the insurance company and is best thought of as verification that the driver is maintaining their financial responsibility as an insured motorist. If the driver’s insurance coverage lapses for any reason, the insurance company is required by law to immediately alert the DMV that the driver is no longer covered.
Who needs an SR-22 certificate?
SR-22 insurance is required in several instances, though the specifics will vary from state to state. In Texas, the following may result in an SR-22 requirement:
- DUI or DWI
- Serious moving violations, or several violations in a short period of time
- An at-fault car accident
- Being charged with an offense while not maintaining valid car insurance
- Being charged with an offense while driving without a license, or with a suspended license
- Operating an unregistered vehicle
- Most situations that result in license suspension or revoking
There are a lot of situations that can result in an SR-22 being required, though the most common are DUIs and DWIs. The Texas Transportation Code is clear regarding who must acquire SR-22 insurance, so there is little wiggle room for a driver if they have been charged with one of the above offenses.
SR-22 insurance is considered high-risk insurance for high-risk drivers, and while that is usually the case, some occupational drivers are required to maintain SR-22 insurance as well. This also varies by state.
How is SR-22 insurance maintained?
If a driver is required to acquire SR-22 insurance, they will first need to find an insurance company that offers SR-22s. Not all insurance companies do, and those that do will charge more for it. Since SR-22 drivers are considered high-risk, insurance companies will respond accordingly.
Figuring out how to file for SR-22 insurance is not always easy. It’s not just what states demand, but what local jurisdictions require. The exact procedures may vary from one jurisdiction to another, so consulting with a local traffic attorney should be considered. An attorney can help their clients properly maintain SR-22 insurance and help them understand their additional obligations while carrying it.
And speaking with an insurance agent will give the driver insight into what companies provide SR-22s, and what additional costs they are likely to take on as a result. The insurance company must be licensed in the state demanding the SR-22, and if the driver’s current insurance provider does not meet this requirement, an alternative company will need to provide the SR-22. If the driver already had coverage when they were convicted of an offense mandating the SR-22, the insurance provider may cancel that policy. This is obviously true if the insurance company cannot provide SR-22 insurance.
It should go without saying that a driver must fully disclose their situation to an insurance company when acquiring SR-22 insurance. For example, the driver cannot pick up two policies and withhold their situation from one insurance company. This is for compliance reasons.
In Texas, anyone required to maintain an SR-22 will have to do so for a period of two years. Once the driver has acquired an SR-22 policy, the insurance company will send the driver and the DMV a copy of the certificate. This certificate must be kept on the driver while operating a vehicle. It is not a substitute for proof of insurance, however, and proof of insurance will not be sufficient to prove an SR-22 policy. Failing to provide an SR-22 certificate can result in serious penalties, including loss of license.
There are a few types of SR-22 insurance, including:
- Owner’s Certificate – An Owner’s SR-22 certificate provides coverage while driving any vehicle the policy holder owns.
- Operator’s Certificate – An Operator’s SR-22 provides coverage while driving any vehicle the policy holder has permission to drive, but doesn’t own.
- Owner-Operator’s Certificate – An Owner-Operator’s SR-22 provides coverage while driving any vehicle the policy holder owns, or any vehicle they have permission to drive.
Finally, if an SR-22 policy holder moves to another state, they must immediately contact that state’s DMV to remain compliant with its laws. Depending on what the new state requires in terms of coverage amounts, the driver may be required to get a new SR-22 that is compliant with its laws. In most other cases, the driver won’t have to do anything. If the driver has already met their obligations with their previous state of residence, they may be able to waive their need to provide proof of financial responsibility to the new state’s DMV.
What if I don’t get SR-22 insurance?
Normally, a driver who must attain SR-22 insurance is doing so to remove a suspension from their license. The state will not remove this suspension until an SR-22 certificate is provided by the driver’s insurance company. If the driver chooses not to attain SR-22 insurance, or fails to follow the proper procedures in doing so, they are effectively driving with a suspended license.
If a driver is pulled over without their SR-22 proof, they may be charged with driving with a suspended license and driving without valid insurance. Together, these charges may result in heavy fines and the possibility of jail time. Their license will usually be suspended for an additional length of time, as well, and SR-22 will be mandated on top of this. In short, it’s best not to risk it.