Some traffic violations in Texas lead to surcharges, which are simply fees that must be paid to restore your driving privileges. For a first-time DWI, for example, there is a reinstatement fee of $225 or higher. These fees can add up quickly, and it is not uncommon for them to accumulate into thousands of dollars.
The surcharges program in Texas and in other states have come under fire from media and authorities because they disproportionately affect low income individuals who rely on their car to transport children, go to their job, etc.. It’s not difficult to see that a person who cannot afford surcharges is exactly the person who cannot go without a vehicle without extreme hardship. So drivers face the choice to either not drive and risk losing their job, or drive on a suspended license.
Unsurprisingly, many people simply keep on driving. The problem comes when they are pulled over again and given another charge for driving with the suspended license (DWLI). This can lead to more suspensions, more surcharges, and a situation that quickly spirals out of control. In extreme cases, drivers have faced jail time for failure to pay, even though this is potentially a civil rights violation.
Fortunately, law-makers are taking notice, and relief is becoming available. The Drivers Surcharge Incentive Program forgives a portion of surcharges based on income levels. In some cases, 100% of the surcharge can be forgiven. Payment plans are also available that allow you to restore driving privileges immediately and pay your fees slowly. Also, if you are in a position to need an Occupational Driver’s License (ODL), you can apply for this without paying the surcharges.
You can check to see if you owe surcharges here.
To apply for the Incentive Program, or to get more information, you can go here.
Although I do not usually handle surcharges by themselves, they often come up as a secondary issue to a DWI or other traffic violation. As part of a complete defense, I will help you navigate surcharges and get your license back.
If you have surcharges as a result of a DWI or other violation in Travis or Williamson county, or if you need an Occupational License, call my office for a free consultation. 512-677-5003.