Why Criminal Convictions Increase Car Insurance Costs

A man with handcuffs standing by a car and being arrested.
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There are many consequences that follow convicted felons around once they've completed serving their sentence. In many states, for example, ex-felons may not be able to vote, serve on juries, or own firearms.

A felony conviction may even affect a person's car insurance rate. The precise effects will depend on the type of crime they were convicted for, along with some other factors. But for the most part, people who have a criminal record end up paying higher insurance rates than those who don't. The simple reason is because they're thought to pose a higher risk. The risk factor is particularly true for people who were convicted for felonies related to driving. Drinking and driving (DWI/DUI), for instance, can have a big impact. Here, we take a closer look.

How Are Auto Insurance Rates Determined?

The name of the game when it comes to insurance rates is risk, and auto insurance is no exception. Car insurance companies are out to make a profit, so the higher the risk to their bottom line, the higher the rates they charge.

Car insurance companies look to a wide range of factors to assess a person's risk. These include their age, job, whether or not they are married or own a home, credit score, and driving record.

Most auto insurance companies view people with criminal records or criminal activity on their driving records as higher risk because they see it as proof that they're more likely to engage in reckless or dangerous behavior.

When shopping for car insurance, you should get quotes from a fair number of providers and compare the rates. This will be most helpful for people who have ever been convicted of a crime related to driving. Some companies have special policies for high-risk drivers.

What Types of Crimes Will Affect Rates?

Every insurance company will check a person's driving record, but not all of them will check your criminal record. So if a felony conviction has nothing to do with operating a vehicle then the insurer will not know about it unless they check the person's criminal record as well.

If a conviction is related to driving, then it will show up on a person's driving record, and car insurance companies will take it into account when they assess their risk and set a premium rate.

One item that's sure to show up on a driving record is a DUI (driving under the influence) conviction. In most cases DUIs will only come into play if it's not the first offense. But either way, they'll affect your driving record for years to come.

In some states DUIs have other names. They may be called DWI (driving while intoxicated), OMVI (operating a motor vehicle impaired), or OVI (operating a vehicle impaired.)

If you have a DUI conviction, it could stay on your driving record for three to five years in some states, and up to 10 in others. But chances are it will stay on your criminal record for life.

If you are convicted of any other type of crime that has to do with driving, it will also show up on your driving record, which will cause your rates will go up. Crimes of this nature can include vehicular homicide or manslaughter, certain types of reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident (often known as a "hit and run"), and repeat offenses of the same type of moving violation.

Does an Arrest Matter as Much as a Conviction?

There is a big difference between being arrested for a crime and being convicted of one. And that could mean a big difference when it comes to the auto insurance bill. Whether or not your arrest affects your bill will depend on where you live. 

In many cases, a person's arrest record is automatically expunged if there is no conviction. If not, in most jurisdictions you can apply to have your arrest record expunged. Again, that is, if there has been no conviction. Also, many jurisdictions will, in certain cases, expunge your criminal record even if you have been convicted, once your full sentence is served.

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