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The DPS is taking a hint from Virginia, who repealed their surcharge program after only a year, and may reduce surcharges for motorists whose income falls less than 120% over the poverty line.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