Texas is ending its controversial Driver Responsibility Program that requires an annual surcharge for people convicted for driving violations, including driving while intoxicated. Statistics suggest that more than 1 million Texas drivers will be eligible to regain their driver’s licenses – some immediately and some when the program officially ends on Sept. 1. Civil liberties advocates have criticized the program for disproportionately affecting low-income traffic offenders. However, the news is not completely positive for people facing DWI charges. In exchange for eliminating the Driver Responsibility Program, Texas is increasing its fines for people convicted of DWI.
Driver Responsibility Program
Texas enacted the Driver Responsibility Program in 2003 to charge an additional fee beyond the fine charged upon conviction for a traffic violation. Drivers whose licenses were suspended must pay an annual surcharge to the Texas Department of Public Safety for three years in order to regain their licenses. For DWI convictions, the annual surcharge was:
- $1,000 for a first offense;
- $1,500 for a second offense; and
- $2,000 for DWI with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.16 or greater.
The Austin Community Law Center had filed a lawsuit against Texas, claiming that the program placed too great of a financial burden on people with low incomes. Many Texas residents either did not understand or could not afford the surcharges and were left without a driver’s license as a result. Texas will wipe out the remaining surcharges on Sept. 1, and drivers will be able to reinstate their licenses if they pay the reinstatement fee and resolve any issues that are not related to the Driver Responsibility Program....