Important Surcharge Changes Affecting Texas Drivers
The almost sixteen year Texas Surcharge Program came to an end on August 31, 2019. The program’s existence has long been debated by state lawmakers and is estimated to have resulted in millions of suspended driver’s licenses. In June 2019, the governor of Texas signed a bill terminating the Texas Surcharge Program effective September 1, 2019. The legal move will erase remaining surcharges and make thousands eligible to have their licenses reinstated.
What exactly was the Texas Surcharge Program? What happened to any existing surcharges? By educating yourself on the basic building blocks of the program, you should have a clearer understanding of how this change will specifically affect you.
What was the Texas Surcharge Program?
The Texas Surcharge Program, also sometimes referred to as the Driver Responsibility Program, enabled the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to assess surcharges based on certain traffic offenses that occurred beginning September 1, 2003.
Surcharges were assessed based on a single conviction for certain offenses on a standard point system, such as DWIs, driving with an invalid license, or no insurance. Point-based surcharges resulted from too many convictions too close together, such as for moving violations.
What does the end of the Texas Surcharge Program mean?
First and foremost, all existing surcharge accounts as of 8/31/19 are forgiven. While some things changed as of 9/1/19, notably the assessing of future surcharges, many others stay the same. People should take care to note that the end of surcharges does not mean that those cited for a traffic offense get a free pass. While a surcharge will not result, there are still some serious consequences for those infractions, such as:
- High Liability Insurance Premiums
- Required SR22 Liability Insurance
- CDL Disqualification
- License Suspension
- Job Loss
- Permanent Final Convictions on Abstract Driving Record
As the program is discontinued, DPS has reinstated driving privileges for people who had their driver’s licenses suspended as a result of delinquent surcharges. It is worth noting that additional reasons for a suspension could still affect the ability for a license to be reinstated.
In the absence of the Driver’s Responsibility Program, the legislature added that those with DWI convictions will face higher minimum fines, ranging from several thousand dollars and going up from there. Multiple convictions within three years of the first can result in even higher fines. DWI convictions with a documented blood or breath alcohol level at or over 0.15 may result in fines of close to six thousand dollars or more.
How We Can Help
By partnering with a reputable attorney, a driver should be able to have confidence in their understanding of the Texas Surcharge Program, its dismantling, and specifically what it means for them.
The biggest problem we encounter is the client who has represented themself in traffic court and who unknowingly created a problem for themselves that we would have prevented. When it comes to more serious offences, like a DWI or racing, we encounter clients whose defense attorney was unwilling to take the case to trial when a trial was the best option. Call us for a free consultation.