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As many Texas residents find to their dismay, not only will they pay significant fines and fees for a DWI in Texas, they will also be assessed surcharges by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). These surcharges are in addition to a license revocation, a DWI fine, possible jail time, and the many other penalties associated with a DWI in Texas. The only way to avoid these surcharges—as well as DWI in Texas penalties—is to fight your charges with a highly experienced Houston DWI attorney by your side.
In the end, fighting back is absolutely the only way you can successfully protect your interests and your future. Your Houston DWI criminal defense attorney will meticulously prepare and aggressively defend your DWI in Texas charges, and if your DWI charges can be successfully defended, you will not be assessed the surcharges by DPS. You could face the following surcharges for DWI in Texas offenses:
- First offense DWI--$1,000 per year for up to three years;
- Second or subsequent DWI--$1,500 per year for up to three years, and
- DWI in Texas with a BAC of 0.16 or higher--$2,000 per year for up to three years.
As you can see, these charges are significant. Even with a first-time DWI in Texas, if your BAC happened to be 0.16 percent or higher, you could end up paying up to $4,000 in court-ordered fines, and up to $6,000 in DPS surcharges. This $10,000 is in addition to attorney fees, DWI class fees, ignition interlock device charges, an increase in your auto insurance and the fees you will pay to regain your driving privileges.
Financial Aspects of a DWI in Texas
The financial issues associated with a DWI in Texas can be as stressful as the criminal case itself. The Driver Responsibility Program adds thousands of dollars for Texas residents who may be barely able to pay their monthly bills as it is. The Driver Responsibility Program goes on a point system or, in the case of a DWI in Texas, is based on the actual conviction. These high surcharges continue for a period of three years, and those who want to continue to drive have no choice but to try and figure out how to pay the surcharges.
The Driver Responsibility Program was put into place to deter drivers from acting in a careless manner. Certain traffic offense convictions place points on the driver’s driving record, and a certain number of points triggers DPS surcharges, except in the case of DWI in Texas, where the surcharges are offense-based. Texas drivers accrue two points for a traffic conviction in the state of Texas, or out of the state and three points for traffic convictions resulting in a collision, both in the state of Texas and out of the state. Once a driver accrues six or more points on their driving record, surcharges can be imposed. A driver could be assessed a $100 surcharge for having six points on his or her driving record, and a surcharge of $25 for each additional point over six. Failure to pay these surcharges can result in a driver’s license suspension.
Indigency Program for the Driver Responsibility Program
While the surcharges assessed in the state of Texas are rather alarming, the Legislature authorized an Indigency Program to help those struggling financially. Those who are living at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty level could have their surcharges waived, being able to keep their driving privileges. One hundred twenty-five percent of the federal poverty level is $15,175 annually for a family of one, $20,575 for a family of two, $25,975 for a family of three and 31,375 for a family of four.
Anyone who believes they are eligible for the Indigency Program might need copies of their SSI benefits statements, Medicaid benefits statement, bank statements, 1040 and 1099s, evidence of dependents, two most recent pay stubs or statements, Veterans Benefits statements, evidence of housing assistance and any other relevant documents. Another program which can assist with DPS surcharges is the Incentive Program which allows surcharges to be reduced, while maintaining your driving privileges.
Are the Texas DPS Surcharges Going Away This September?
According to 3News, it is possible that this September the surcharges DPS charges drivers may go away. Governor Greg Abbot signed House Bill 2048, ending the Driver Responsibility Program—the surcharge program which required Texas residents convicted of DWI in Texas and certain other traffic offenses after September 1, 2003 to pay an annual surcharge to maintain their driver’s licenses.
The change in the Driver Responsibility Program will allow almost 1.5 million Texas drivers who currently have suspended driver’s licenses to (legally) get back on the road. According to DPS figures as of May, 2019, this HB 2048 will allow 634,933 Texas residents to automatically have their suspensions lifted as of September 1st, 2019, because they have no other suspensions or fees owed.
Another 350,027 Texas residents will have their suspensions lifted when HB 2048 goes into effect, however these residents will be required to pay a reinstatement fee. Finally, almost 400,000 Texas residents will be eligible to have their suspensions lifted after resolving other issues such as failure to appear or failure to pay fines.
As of September 1, all surcharge assessments will be waived, and no more surcharges assessed. Texas residents will still be responsible for court fines or fees on their driving record—it will only be the surcharges from DPS that will be removed. Until September 1st, 2019, drivers are advised to continue to pay their surcharge installment payments to avoid any issues.
How a Sullo & Sullo Houston DWI Attorney Can Help with Your DPS Surcharges and Your DWI
If you have been charged with a DWI in Texas, you will want to minimize the consequences of those charges to the extent possible. The best way to do this is to hire an experienced Sullo & Sullo Houston criminal defense attorney whose goal is to help you avoid Harris County jail and Harris County criminal records whenever possible. We will fight for your rights and your future, carefully explaining every issue you have questions about. We believe that good people make mistakes and that you should not have to pay for the rest of your life for such a mistake. We will aggressively challenge any evidence presented by the Harris County district attorney in your case. Do not wait, hoping the charges will somehow go away on their own—they won’t. Contact a knowledgeable Sullo & Sullo Houston DWI lawyer today for a comprehensive consultation regarding your DWI in Texas charges.