Would it be smarter to let my driver's license lapse?
September 1, 2014 4:08 PM   Subscribe

(Posting on behalf of a friend): I was convicted of a DUI in March 2014, and am trying to pick up the pieces. I need to pay for an SR-22 which is insurance on my license. If I do not pay for this insurance my license will lapse. The policy is less expensive if I also insure a vehicle but I will not need a car in the coming months and cannot afford the payments. I need help figuring out if it would be smarter to not pay for any insurance (letting my license lapse), to sell the car and use the profits to pay the SR-22, or to just keep the car (though I really do not want to).

I received a DUI in the state of Rhode Island in March 2014. After reinstating your license the state requires that you carry an SR-22 on your insurance policy for a minimum of three years. An SR-22 is essentially insurance on your license. Recently, my car was stolen so I cancelled my insurance policy which also canceled my SR-22. I planned on also canceling my cars registration. However, this week I received a letter in the mail from the DMV stating the my license would be suspended if I did not reinstate the SR-22. I was under the impression that the SR-22 was only necessary if you were the registered owner of a vehicle; but it is required by the state to maintain a valid license.

Then, a week later, my car was recovered with no damage. I plan on moving to Boston in the next six months and was planning on selling my vehicle because it is not needed in the city. This may no longer be possible because maintaing insurance on my vehicle is cheaper than having an insurance policy without a vehicle on it to maintain the SR-22. I currently pay $270 a month for liability car insurance with an SR-22. For a policy with only the SR-22 it will be $300 monthly. Therefore, I am wondering if the logical decision is to stop paying for insurance and sell my vehicle; hence letting my license become suspended. Or if should still sell my car and then use the profits to pay for insurance which would prevent my insurance from lapsing. Keeping the vehicle is not a financially feasible option considering my imminent move to the city.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (9 answers total)
I think one big question is whether your license will lapse without the SR-22 or be suspended. If you ever do need a license again it might be difficult and expensive to get it un-suspended.

In addition, Mr Architeuthis, who had a spotless driving record, let his license lapse about 10 years ago and discovered when he needed to start driving again that the insurance companies basically treat you as a new driver at that point, so he had to pay really high insurance rates.

So I would generally favor keeping your license. Are you sure it will be $300? Can you call around and get some quotes? Alternatively, you might qualify for "low mileage" discounts on your car if you decide to keep it but don't end up using it much.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 4:47 PM on September 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't know if this helps or not, but I had a boyfriend who had some car accidents and decided to stop driving under his own name. His parents let him drive their car. When he came back 3-4 years later, the insurance company told him they would be adding the insurance for the missing 3-4 years and that they were also treating him as a new driver. So his insurance went to something like $6k a year.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 4:56 PM on September 1, 2014

You should also do some research to find out what the insurance requirements would be in Massachuessets. Each state has its own laws and it might make a difference in your calculations.
posted by metahawk at 4:57 PM on September 1, 2014

Your friend might want to check on whether they can surrender their license. As TEA points out, having a license suspended is punitive, and various agencies will want to continue to punish them for it, given the opportunity.
posted by Etrigan at 4:58 PM on September 1, 2014

Surrender your license if at all possible.

My husband did this for several years in late adolescence, because he was a horrible driver and just existing was trashing his parents' insurance rates. When he told me that story, I had never heard of such a thing as surrendering a license, but I think most states have some kind of mechanism.

Get a state-issued ID as part of the process, just so you have something.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:15 PM on September 1, 2014

Metahawk's point about moving states is a really important one--definitely find out what the deal is for a Massachusetts license. MA does not require an SR-22, but the nuances of transferring in a license with a recent DUI are something you should be careful with. You might even want to have a brief consult with a MA lawyer in the subject.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 5:41 PM on September 1, 2014

If I'm remembering correctly what a friend of mine experienced, that SR-22 might have to be filed for a total of three years to end up with a valid license, whether it's three years starting now, or six months now and two and a half years ten years from now... your friend definitely needs to get answers from the state(s) they'll be dealing with.

In other words, for my friend - not being able to afford either a car or insurance did not use up some of that three years. It just started later, and lasted longer, because it was interrupted, in his case, multiple times, resulting in multiple suspensions and WAY more dollars put out than would have been otherwise necessary.

Tread carefully.
posted by stormyteal at 6:07 PM on September 1, 2014

I think if you move states, you still need to satisfy the original state's SR-22 requirement, meaning you need to continue to send that state proof. See Progressive's site on SR-22s for example.
posted by dcjd at 6:27 PM on September 1, 2014

I can't speak to the additional insurance dealy, but I can add my own strong caution to this statement: one big question is whether your license will lapse without the SR-22 or be suspended.

I had a wreck that resulted in a ticket for DWI. I was never served when my initial hearing happened (years later, and despite my due diligence in trying to handle the ticket). I was held in contempt for failure to appear, and then the prosecution failed to appear for the rescheduled hearing; as a result, the judge dismissed the case. However, the state DMV didn't; they interpreted the fumbled court stuff as reason to revoke a license that I innocently thought I'd allowed to lapse.

My "mystery" revoked license took over a year of effort to resolve, when I finally needed to drive again. Calling the courts and getting one piece of information, calling the DMV and getting a completely contradictory piece of information, and so on. The end result was that the court was insisting that I'd need to return to my home state, hire a lawyer, and go through a trial for a 14 year old case. It was only through the intervention of a retired judge (who randomly heard my family discussing my problem) that the court finally re-dismissed the case, at which point the DMV reclassified the license as lapsed.

TL/DR: I got really unlucky, then really lucky. But in between it was seriously inconvenient, and seriously not-fun. Be absolutely, doubly, triply sure that your handling -- or the local bureaucracy's handling -- of this will not come back to haunt you (or rather, your friend).
posted by credible hulk at 10:15 PM on September 1, 2014

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