DWI surcharges in Texas took effect in 2004, but have not brought the results the state had hoped for . The hefty fines were implemented to hopefully prevent DWI offenses by adding a further deterrent effect, and simultaneously raise money for roads and trauma care. But things didn’t work out that way and now there’s a grand total of $1 billion in unpaid surcharges according to The Dallas Morning News.
The surcharges haven’t just led to unpaid monies; they’ve also created a backlog in the court system, leading many DWI charges to be reduced to more minor reckless driving charges in an attempt to reduce the backlog.
While this works out to the benefit of those defendants that are able to take advantage of a better plea deal, the state isn’t exactly happy with how the surcharges have ended up.
Some are calling for changes in the legislation, asking that judges be given the power to waive the surcharges. Others, those who actually benefit from those surcharges that are received, don’t want the program to change at all.
Dubbed the Driver Responsibility Program, these surcharges are annual fees collected from those convicted of DWI. For a first time offender, your surcharges are $1,000 per year for three years. The amount you pay increases with every DWI conviction on your record.
These surcharges are in addition to any fines, fees, or ignition interlock costs you must pay. In some situations, payment installments are allowed for the surcharges.
The Public Safety Commission elected to not make any immediate changes to the surcharges and if they do, the changes will likely only affect indigent defendants, or those who make less than $14,000 per year.
When charged with DWI, the potential penalties are numerous. You may be required to serve jail time, pay fines, take alcohol education classes, and have an ignition interlock device installed. All of these conditions are dependent on the specific details of your case.