Finding or being able to afford car insurance after being convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or other drugs can be difficult in Virginia. Following conviction, you must obtain an FR44 certificate, which proves that you have the necessary liability insurance required by Virginia law.

Take the time to learn how car insurance works in Virginia with an FR44 certificate. Find out where and how to shop for the required car insurance coverage, restrictions and deadlines that apply and what to do if you don't own a car but still need insurance.

What happens when you get your first DUI in Virginia?

If this is your first DUI offense and your blood alcohol level was lower than 0.15, this is considered a class 1 misdemeanor that can carry penalties of:

  • Up to a $2,500 fine
  • A maximum of 12 months in jail
  • One-year revocation of your driver's license.

"If your blood alcohol level was between 0.15 and 0.20, you'll face the same penalties with an additional mandatory five-day jail sentence," says Mark Friedlander, director of Corporate Communications for the Insurance Information Institute. "A blood-alcohol level greater than 0.20 will trigger the same penalties with an additional mandatory 10-day sentence."

Also, a DUI conviction requires you to get an FR44 certificate. It also will likely lead to costly auto insurance premiums.

How long does a DUI stay on your record in Virginia?

A DUI conviction can stay on your motor vehicle record for up to 11 years in Virginia.

Having a DUI on your record can affect your car insurance rates, coverage levels and you can face driving restrictions. So, a DUI can have a lost, lasting impact on both your driving and finances.

Is Virginia a zero-tolerance state?

Virginia has a zero-tolerance law in effect.

Megan Shepherd, an insurance analyst for Finder and a licensed insurance agent, says that means:

  • If you’re under 21 and caught drunk driving, you could face a suspended driver's license for one year. You could also receive a minimum $500 fine or 50 hours of community service. 
  • And if you’re under 21 and caught driving with a blood alcohol content over 0.08, you can face the same penalties as a driver over 21, which are more strict.

What is FR44 insurance in Virginia?

An FR44 is a certificate of financial responsibility (FR). FR44 proves that you have the required liability insurance following a conviction for:

  • Driving while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or intoxicants
  • Maiming while under the influence
  • Driving while your driver's license has been forfeited for a conviction or a finding of "not innocent" in the case of a juvenile
  • Violation of any federal law or law of any other state or any valid local ordinance similar to the above. (Note that Virginia drivers are still subject to Virginia FR44 requirements if the offense happens out of state.)

Your car insurance company issues the FR44 certificate. You must file it with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. Friedlander notes that the FR44 certificate is filed in conjunction with obtaining new auto insurance coverage.

Be aware that an FR44 is actually not insurance or insurance coverage.

"An FR44 is a document that verifies to the state of Virginia that you have a specified amount of car insurance coverage beyond the minimum liability required by the state. It's proof of car insurance," Shepherd adds.

The cost to file an FR44 form in Virginia usually averages from $15 to $25.

Virginia and Florida are the only states that mandate obtaining an FR44 certificate after a conviction for DUI or otherwise.

FR44 insurance requirements in Virginia

You must have auto insurance coverage to obtain an FR44. 

Car insurance companies issue the FR44 certificate. Also, you're required to have the following minimum amounts of liability coverage in place on your car insurance:

  • $40,000 of property damage liability
  • $50,000 of bodily injury per person liability
  • $100,000 of bodily injury liability per accident

How long do you have to have FR44 insurance in Virginia?

You’re required to carry FR44 coverage for three consecutive years from the date of your license suspension or conviction.

"That extends to four years for Virginia drivers with restricted licenses," says Brian Martucci, the Minneapolis-based finance editor for Money Crashers, says in Virginia.

As long as you have a clean driving record over this three- to four-year period, "the FR44 form will expire after 36 months," adds Friedlander.

What is the difference between SR22 insurance and FR44 insurance?

FR44 certificates are specifically for drivers convicted of driving under the influence or other incidents involving intoxication. SR22 certificates apply to a wider range of non-DUI violations.

“These include driving without insurance, vehicular manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident," Martucci says.

Additionally, with an SR22 certificate, you must carry the state’s minimum liability limits. An FR44 requires higher limits. 

Where can I get FR44 insurance?

You can request an FR 44 from your car insurance company.

Alert your auto insurance company promptly if you've been convicted of a DUI or another reason that triggers an FR44 certificate. Except for your car insurance premiums to increase substantially, Friedlander says. 

Once your insurance policy is fully paid, your insurer will issue and file the FR44 certificate with the Virginia DMV if you want to continue driving legally and with car insurance coverage in place.

Following a conviction, your auto insurance company may drop your coverage or raise your rates substantially. In either scenario, you can shop around for a new insurer and policy to find less expensive insurance. However, if you choose a new car insurance company, it will still need to issue and file an FR44 on your behalf.

"It's more difficult but not impossible to obtain car insurance with an FR44 requirement," Martucci cautions.

If you've experienced a serious driving conviction, you may need to find a car insurance company specializing in high-risk drivers.

"The General specializes in affordable coverage for high-risk drivers who may not qualify elsewhere. And you might want to check out SafeAuto, which also serves high-risk drivers and offers several discounts," suggests Shepherd. "Get multiple quotes online from high-risk insurers and look for companies in your local area that ensure drivers with a less-than-perfect record."

Friedlander adds that most national and many regional carriers offer coverage for FR44 drivers.

How much does FR44 insurance cost in Virginia?

An FR44 certificate categorizes you as a high-risk driver, regardless of the insurer you choose. People with an FR44 can expect to pay more for car insruance.

Virgina has much lower than average auto insurance premiums. The state has the third lowest annual premium ($1,191) for full coverage car insurance. However, if you have an FR44, you can expect to pay more.

"Drivers should expect an FR44 requirement alone to increase premiums by 50% above the pre-conviction baseline. You may also need to pay multiple months' premiums in advance, increasing the upfront cost of coverage," says Martucci.

Minors with DUI convictions can even see auto insurance rates on a separate car insurance policy cost as much as 75% more than the average driver, Shepherd cautions.

"And if you're a parent with a DUI-convicted minor on your policy, you could see your car insurance rates double or triple," she adds.

To possibly reduce FR44-related insurance expenses, follow these recommendations:

  • Bundle your auto insurance with a home or renter's policy.
  • Request a higher deductible.
  • Think about dropping collision and comprehensive coverage if you have an older car, as insurance usually only covers up to the vehicle’s value.
  • Complete a defensive driving course, if it's an option, which could trigger a discount.
  • Choose paperless billing and auto-renewal if they get you discounts.

What is non-owner FR44 insurance in Virginia?

Say you don't own a car but want to keep your driver's license valid and drive someone else's vehicle. You're still required to file an FR44 certificate. In this case, a non-owner certificate gets your license reinstated. Plus, you'll need a named-operator liability policy, better known as a non-owner policy.

"This type of policy works the same as a traditional policy. But it's limited to liability coverage and doesn't include collision and comprehensive coverage," says Shepherd.

Specifically, a non-owner policy provides third-party bodily injury and property damage liability if you’re in an at-fault accident. It may also cover you for injuries caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver. But it doesn’t cover any vehicle damage. The only person covered is the named insured; no other drivers can be listed on the policy.

"A non-owners policy is suitable for drivers who may require liability insurance because they, for instance, frequently rent a car or borrow a vehicle from a neighbor or friend but are not listed as an insured driver on that person's auto policy," Friedlander says. "It's also designed for drivers whose license is suspended and who need to file an SR-22 certificate."