Legislators Push to Abolish Texas Program for Driving Offender Surcharges

If you are convicted of a DWI in Texas you will face a massive financial headache. Recently TxDOT said on a billboard you will likely end up paying as much as $17,000 for the offense.

Some of the costs you will face are controversial, in particular the program that requires drivers who have been convicted of certain traffic offenses to pay annual surcharges to the state retain their driver’s licenses.

Recently, a group of lawmakers made an attempt to end the law that makes offenders pay multiple times for their offense.

The Texas Tribune reported the move by a group of lawmakers in April. Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, has submitted Senate Bill 93 which would abolish the contentious Driver Responsibility Program.

Ellis claims that the program has trapped many people in Texas in a cycle of poverty as they seek to get their lives back on track after a driving offense such as a DWI. Those supporting the bill point to the high human cost for a relatively small amount of income.

Attempts to eliminate the program have foundered in the past with supporters pointing out it helps fund hospitals and trauma centers.

The program started in 2003. It’s operated by the Texas Department of Public Safety. If you are convicted of certain traffic violations, including DWI and driving without insurance, you will face paying surcharges once a year for three years on top of any fines other fines and legal fees associated with the violations. The surcharges range from $100 for allowing traffic tickets to accumulate to $2,000 for more serious drunk driving offenses.

Failure to pay the surcharges can lead to a loss of your driving license.

The Tribune article quoted Joseph Yeno, from Tyler, who now owes $5,000 to the state and is unable to pay the charges.

“This program has destroyed my life and career,” Yeno told the news conference in April.

The Drive Responsibility Program adds to the considerable financial burden you will face if you are convicted of a DWI in Texas. Rather than making drivers more responsible it can sink offenders deeper into a poverty trap. If you have been charged with DWI in Texas, it’s vital to obtain experienced legal representation as soon as possible.

At Broden & Mickelsen, LLP, we are experienced Dallas criminal defense lawyers are dedicated to providing aggressive and ethical representation to individuals and businesses charged with crimes.