Question: I live in Pennsylvania but received a DUI out-of-state in Rhode Island. I travel to Rhode Island often, and the DMV there says I need SR-22 insurance to reinstate my driving privileges in the state of Rhode Island. Is that true? If Pennsylvania doesn't require it, and that is where I am licensed and insured, it doesn’t make sense to me why I have to get it.
Answer: Rhode Island didn’t issue your driver’s license, but they can restrict you from driving there if you don’t follow their laws or conditions that they place on you; it’s as simple as that. It works that way with all states.
Though your license is from Pennsylvania, you broke Rhode Island laws by being convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) there. Rhode Island now has the authority to say there is a condition of obtaining and maintaining a SR-22 certificate of financial responsibility if you want to get your license reinstated in their state.
Rhode Island has the right to place certain stipulations on those that want to operate a vehicle on their roadways, whether that person is licensed by the Rhode Island Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or holds an out-of-state driver’s license.
Pennsylvania as your licensing state has its own set of laws and could also penalize you for the out-of-state DUI.
Fortunate for you, the Pennsylvania Department of transportation (PennDOT) doesn't hand out suspensions for out-of-state DUI convictions if it's your first offense. If you get a second or subsequent DUI out-of-state, though, PennDOT will suspend your driver’s license for 12 months.
When your home state suspends your license, it means it is suspended everywhere. When it’s a different state than where you’re licensed that suspends your license, it’s suspended in only that state.
Since you’re required to file a SR-22 in Rhode Island if you want to drive there, you need to find a car insurance company in Pennsylvania that is licensed to do business in both states so that it can file the SR-22 for you in Rhode Island. We’d suggest contacting auto insurance providers that write policies throughout the U.S., such as GEICO and Progressive.
Keep in mind that Rhode Island requires minimum bodily injury liability limits of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident, and property damage liability coverage of $25,000, referred to as 25/50/25. Pennsylvania has lower state liability limits of 15/30/5, but to comply with the Rhode Island SR-22 requirements you’ll have to get the higher Rhode Island limits with your Pennsylvania car insurance policy.
If you fail to get the SR-22 and your license reinstated in Rhode Island but go ahead and drive there and get caught, you could be charged with driving on a suspended license.
In Rhode Island, driving while license suspended (DWLS) is a misdemeanor that comes with additional license suspension of at least three months. And if you are under suspension due to a previous criminal charge, such as your DUI, you’ll face a minimum of 10 days in jail and a fine of $500 (Per Rhode Island statute 31-11-18.1).