Sunday, March 21, 2010

Texas taking a second look at surcharges

Today's Houston Chronicle ran an excellent article on the trouble people find themselves in as a result of the Texas Department of Public Safety's Driver Responsibility Program. The program created surcharges for various traffic offenses that drivers must pay in order to prevent their driver's licenses from being suspended.

If you are convicted of driving while intoxicated, in addition to whatever penalties handed out by the court, you will face a $3,000 surcharge payable over three years from the DPS. Should you fail to make your payments, your privilege to drive will be suspended -- regardless of whether your license was suspended as a result of the conviction. Pick up another DWI conviction and the surcharge doubles.

HOW DPS SURCHARGES CAN SNOWBALL

Convicted offenders must pay these fines for three years to keep their driver's licenses:

• DWI first offense: $1,000 annually

• DWI subsequent offense within three years: $1,500 annually

• DWI with alcohol concentration of 0.16 or more: $2,000 annually

• Driving with no car insurance or a suspended driver's license: $250 annually

• Driving without a valid license: $100 annually

Money collected by program

Surcharges imposed, collected by end of November 2009

• Total fines billed: $1,721,383,578.00

• Total revenue paid: $672,150,803.95

• Fines still unpaid: $1,049,232,774.05

Drivers facing surcharges

Convicted offenders hit with surcharges as of April 2009

• Number of drivers billed: 1,641,183

• Drivers who have paid: 543,612

• Drivers who failed to pay: 1,097,571

Add in surcharges for driving without insurance, driving on a suspended license or driving without a valid Texas driver's license and the state is raking in the bucks -- that is, if the motorist can afford the payments.

Most motorists are shocked to find out about the surcharge program. There's no indication on a traffic citation that you'll get hit with a surcharge for the any offense and the prosecutor conveniently fails to mention it to unrepresented defendants. Hire an attorney without any experience in traffic court or handling DWIs and you're not going to find out either.

The program creates a cycle that some folks just can't find their way out of -- incurring a surcharge for one offense can lead to a suspension and a subsequent surcharge for driving on a suspended license.

“We can't point to anything that says that law has caused a decline in alcohol-related fatalities. We're not going to go nuts if the Legislature decides they want to repeal it.” -- Bill Lewis, MADD

The DPS is taking a hint from Virginia, who repealed their surcharge program after only a year, and may reduce surcharges for motorists whose income falls less than 120% over the poverty line.

Proposed indigence rule

The rule, if approved, would:

• Reduce fines for convicted motorists earning equal to or less than 125 percent of the poverty level

• Allow 90 days to pay the reduced fees in full and provide proof of insurance

• Allow electronic application online or by phone

• Require applicants to submit supporting documents to prove indigency

• Require DPS to mail a letter of approval or denial to any applicant

State Representatives Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and John Carona (R-Dallas) want to end the program but it's hard for the government to cut off a revenue stream.

7 comments:

驚訝 said...

He who would climb the ladder must begin at the bottom...................................................

Houston DWI Attorney Paul B. Kennedy, said...

Okay, I give up. What are you talking about?

chris said...

Can DPS still enforce the surcharge on someone who has obtained a license in another state and no longer has a Texas license?

Houston DWI Attorney Paul B. Kennedy, said...

Chris, the State of Texas can suspend your privilege to drive within the state if the surcharge isn't paid. The new state may suspend a driver's license if another state has suspended that person's privilege to drive.

toby said...

Yes CHRIS, you are S.O.L.
The new state can issue you a license.
The new state will apply open any NDR block on that new license.
You can request a hearing to have it overturned. However the new state can always defend it's self with lack of jurisdiction. This still cost money but I can't tell you how much. I am in the process of doing it. The new license will have a new block put on, then removed after the hearing. Insurance companies can see this and it will reflect on your bill for 5 years after the date of reinstatement no matter what, so if you did what I did and tried to wait it out, your still S.O.L. 5 years after the reinstatement date. I say we make an Army and take down these people. Let me know where to sign up. I would buy the biggest gun I could if you tell me where to sign up to actually fight this. The DPS has postponed to long, it's time.

toby said...

Paul,
If I setup a payment plan, is NDR block is removed?
Then I get a license in this state.

Once the NDR block is removed can I cancel my TXDL?
Then I stop paying, and there is no license for them to apply the block back to since it was cancelled.

Will this work?

Houston DWI Attorney Paul B. Kennedy, said...

Toby,

The state is suspending your "privilege" to drive. Therefore, even if you don't have a Texas driver's license, your license in another state could be suspended as a result of not paying the surcharge.

You might consult with an attorney in the other state who can fill you in on how they handle out-of-state suspensions.