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Texas Driver Responsibility Surcharge Nightmare: DPS Isn’t Following the New Law

Effective September 1, 2011, a new law went into effect here in Texas designed to help lots of folk convicted of a moving traffic violation, by changing the old law that required everyone who got a traffic ticket (including DWI) to pay a Driver Responsibility surcharge. For details, check out our post back in August 2011.

These Driver Responsibility Surcharges are VERY EXPENSIVE.  The new law has been the law of the land for 39 days already, and yet something fishy is going on.  VERY FISHY.

First, consider how expensive these Driver Responsibility Surcharges are.  Back in April 2010, we discussed the cost of DWI Surcharges.  From that post:

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.

Next, consider what’s been happening since September 1st.   Apparently, not much.

Seems that the Texas Department of Public Safety hasn’t been following the new law – and Grits for Breakfast has the emails to prove it. Our fellow blogger (in a blog we recommend you follow, see the sidebar), a non-lawyer mind you, wrote the state agency to check into how things were doing with the change on Surcharges and what he got back in email has been published online.

DPS, bottom line, has no “…estimated date for implementation…” and isn’t doing a darn thing about complying with the new law.

This, of course, doesn’t mean that the new law isn’t effective.  It just means that the Department of Public Safety is dragging its heels on waiving those surcharges.  You are entitled to the waiver if you meet the law’s requirements – period.   You don’t need to file a special pleading anywhere.

Still, here’s the reality:

1.  someone is still going to get surcharge notices from DPS regardless of the new law;

2. the DPS records are still going to show a lot of folk responsible for paying money that the new law says they don’t owe;

3.  someone pulled over by a police officer (for speeding, no turn signal, whatever) is still going to have a fight on their hands when the cop runs their Texas Driver’s License number through DPS records and gets notified that the driver owes surcharges — which is not true under the new law; and

4.  some legal fees are going to have to be paid by folk to get a Court Order signed by a judge that confirms that they don’t owe the surcharge just to win a fight with DPS that shouldn’t be necessary … if DPS would just follow current Texas law.


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