The Driver Responsibility Program has officially come to an end! What does this mean for the great state of Texas, and why should you care? Let’s take a few minutes to discuss why the Driver Responsibility Program was repealed and what’s popping up in its place.
Why was the Driver Responsibility Program so unpopular?
The Driver Responsibility Program wasn’t exactly a beloved initiative in the Lone Star State. In fact, the program was despised by almost all Texas citizens who came face to face with it. Why? Because the Driver Responsibility Program was expensive. If you weren’t able to afford the initial fines that came with it, then you could very well end up in a vicious cycle of debt.
Many claimed that the program unfairly punished low-income Texans, because:
- The Driver Responsibility Program slapped drivers with surcharges for things like driving under the influence or driving with a suspended license. (For reference, read our article on DWI entrapment.)
- Individuals had to pay these surcharges in addition to the standard fine associated with traffic violations.
- Annual surcharges could be anywhere from $100 to $2000, and they could last as long as three years.
- If you received a fine and then numerous surcharges afterward, the amount owed could eventually become something very difficult to pay. And if you didn’t pay, then your license could become (or remain) suspended, which can eventually open you up to even more fines.
Citizens with low income were often unable to pay the aforementioned fines. Without a license, these individuals could not drive to work, pushing them further into poverty and (of course) making it even harder for them to pay off their fines.
How does House Bill 2048 fix the old program?
In an effort to replace an outdated and failed program with a shiny new one, lawmakers have passed House Bill 2048. To the pleasant surprise of many a lawyer, House Bill 2048 appears to be a leap in the right direction.
Here’s what you can expect from House Bill 2048:
- Starting September 1st, 2019 Any pending surcharges left over from the Driver Responsibility Program are forgiven.
- Starting September 1st, 2019 Individuals whose licenses have been revoked solely because they were unable to pay their surcharge fees will have their licenses reinstated.
- Since the original purpose of the old program was to fund the state’s trauma care system, different fees have been put in place: a reasonable upfront fee on state traffic fines ($30-$50) and a $2 increase in annual automobile insurance feeds.
Does this new bill affect DWI charges?
Yes, this new bill will have a drastic impact on the fines associated with DWIs. In fact, those caught and convicted of DWI may actually have to pay an additional $6,000 in additional DWI fines.
But don’t automatically assume this will bring back the vicious cycle. Lawmakers added a provision to the bill that gives judges the ability to waive or reduce fees for low-income drivers.
Have questions about the Driver Responsibility Program?
We have the answers. Thiessen Law Firm is the go-to criminal defense team in Houston. We have the experience needed to help you overcome life-changing charges, from DWIs to intoxication manslaughter charges and more.
Thiessen Law Firm will fight for you. Request a consultation or call us at 713-864-9000 today.
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