On June 14, 2019, Governor Greg Abbott signed into law HB 2048, which will eliminate the so-called Driver Responsibility Program. The new law will take effect on September 1, 2019.
Doing Away with Surcharges for Traffic Offenses
To funnel money to the state’s trauma care, the Driver Responsibility Program was established, which added annual surcharges to traffic offenses. Depending on the law a motorist was accused of violating, the amount of the fees varied and had to be paid on top of the price of the ticket.
For example, if a person was charged with a first-time DWI, they would have to pay a $3,000 in surcharges, and a second and subsequent DWI would result in a fee of $4,500. A driver caught operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) higher than .15 would be charged $6,000.
Failure to pay the surcharge would result in a driver’s license suspension. Opponents of the Driver Responsibility Program argued that it created a cycle of debt: Individuals with suspended licenses would have trouble getting to work and earning money to afford the surcharge.
When the new law goes into effect, the surcharges will not only be lifted, but they will also be wiped from a driver’s record, meaning they will no longer owe the fee regardless of whether they were ticketed for a minor traffic violation or arrested for a DWI. Additionally, driver’s licenses will be reinstated if they were suspended because of a person’s failure to pay the surcharge.
Changes to DWI Fines
Although the new law does away with surcharges, at the same time, it increases DWI penalties. Currently, if a person is convicted of driving while intoxicated, they face a fine of up to $2,000 for a first offense, $4,000 for a second offense, and $10,000 for a third offense.
Beginning September 1, 2019, a conviction will result in the following additional and mandatory fines:
- $3,000 for the first DWI in a 36-month period
- $4,500 for a subsequent DWI in a 36-month period
- $6,000 if the driver’s BAC was .15 or more
These fines are not a range but rather a set amount, meaning a person won’t be charged “up to $3,000,” they will be required to pay $3,000.
Schedule a Free Consultation with Smith & Vinson Law Firm
When the new law takes effect, the punishments for a DWI conviction will become more costly. If you’re facing charges, having skilled counsel on your side could make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. Our team will fight hard to protect your rights and freedoms. We will work toward getting charges reduced or dropped, minimizing the consequences of a conviction.
For results-oriented defense, call us at (512) 359-3743 or contact us online.