If you are convicted of DWI in Houston, you will be subjected to several different penalties including a fine, possible jail time, “DWI school”, possible community service and suspension of your driver’s license. Even after your driver’s license is reinstated, you will have to pay an expensive surcharge to the Texas Department of Public Safety for three years after your license is reinstated.
The Driver Responsibility Program
The Texas Department of Public Safety Driver Responsibility Program is s system that assesses surcharges on people who have committed certain traffic-related violations (not limited to DWI). Failure to pay the surcharge will result in suspension of your driver’s license.
It is important to note that the surcharge program is not an alternative to the suspension of your driver’s license that follows a DWI conviction. If your license is suspended for a year for DWI, you will have to pay a $125 reinstatement fee (not included in the surcharge) at the end of the one-year suspension period. Only after reinstatement of your license do the surcharges kick in. The standard surcharge for a first-offense DWI is $1,000 per year for three years ($2,000 if your BAC was 0.16% or greater).
Out-of-State Drivers: You will be expected to pay the surcharge even if your license is from out of state. If you don’t, then instead of suspending your out of state license (which Texas lacks the authority to do), Texas will suspend your driving privileges in Texas, and notify your home state (which is likely to take some punitive action against you).
In a sense, the Driver Responsibility Program is grossly unfair, because a flat-rate surcharge applies equally to a millionaire and an unskilled worker, resulting in a grossly disproportionate financial burden. In response to this inequality, Texas has instituted a program for low-income people – your surcharge can be reduced by 90 percent if your annual income is no more than 125 percent of the poverty line, and by 50 percent if your annual income is between 125 percent and 300 percent of the poverty line. Installment payment plans are also possible.
The Surcharge Trap
Many people get caught in a vicious cycle – they fail to make a payment on their surcharge, their driver’s license is automatically suspended, and they are caught driving to work on a suspended license. This can result in a further driver’s license suspension and additional surcharges. The whole system can work something like a loan sharking operation, and it has drawn broad criticism from many quarters.
An Advocate on Your Side
The best way (but not the only way) to avoid problems with DWI-related surcharges is to beat the DWI conviction in the first place. Houston DWI attorney Mario Madrid has practiced law in Texas for decades as a criminal defense lawyer, a prosecutor and a judge He has been certified as a specialist in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and he has been inducted into the National College of DUI Defense Attorneys.
If you have been charged with DWI in the Houston area, or if you have been convicted of DWI and are facing problems with surcharges, call Madrid Law, PLLC at 713-877-9400 for a free initial consultation.