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DWI Surcharges – Rules Changes Being Considered by Public Safety Commission

Today, the Texas Public Safety Commission continues its hearing all about the current Texas Driver Responsibility Program, which many (as in, many criminal judges) are reporting is the reason that there is around a 2 year backlog of DWI cases across the state — because those accused of driving drunk and charged with DWI (driving while intoxicated) are wanting trials and not taking a deal.  Seems the Program’s DWI Surcharges are causing lotsa problems out there.

What’s the DWI Surcharge? It’s Thousands of Dollars and It Covers 3 Years AFTER the DWI Conviction 

Right now, Texas drivers convicted of DWI (driving while intoxicated) as well as a couple of other violations (driving without a driver’s license, or one that’s invalid; as well as driving without insurance) must pay automatic surcharges every year, for three years from the date of conviction.

And it isn’t cheap: for a DWI conviction, the surcharge is $1,000 a year for three years for a first conviction; $1,500 a year for the second; and $2,000 a year for any conviction with a blood-alcohol content of 0.16 or greater. That’s big money, right?

People Aren’t Paying the Surcharges

It’s not news to those involved in DWI work that people aren’t paying these surcharges.  However, everyone may not know that state-wide, over $1 billion hasn’t been paid.  One billion dollars in unpaid surcharges – no wonder they’re having some hearings down in Austin.

Why aren’t people paying? 

Some can’t afford it.  Some think it’s just wrong or stupid to be asked to pay for up to three years after they’ve already been convicted.  They’ll just drive without a license rather than fork over the surcharge.

Surcharges and DWI Trial Backlogs also Impact Pending DWI Cases: Dismissals, Lesser Offenses

In the face of balloon-bursting DWI trial dockets, criminal judges and prosecutors have become creative in how to deal with drunk driver cases that are brought before them.  Judges are dismissing more cases, and lots of DWI cases are getting lesser charges — like reckless driving. 

And apparently, dismissing cases and negotiating down to lesser charges isn’t solving the DWI docket program — or the problem that there’s a $1 billion dollar account receivable on the State Budget.   You go figure which is the driving factor here.

Hearing Continues Today

Whatever the impetus, the hearing is continuing today.  According to Grits for Breakfast, most everyone there is hankering for a change.  The only ones that like things the way they are, apparently, are hospital representatives.  They want to maximize money from surcharges going to hospital trauma centers.  

Let’s watch and see what happens….

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