Texas state legislators have introduced companion legislation in the state Senate and House to abolish the Driver Responsibility Program, which imposes significant driver surcharges related to traffic violations that drivers often cannot afford to pay. Drivers who fail to pay the required surcharges have their licenses suspended after 105 days of non-payment.
Repeal of the Driver Responsibility Program leaves a $144 million loss in funding for the state’s trauma hospitals. These bills suggest some different funding options for trauma hospitals, which currently are supposed to be funded by driver surcharges. More specifically, the bills would seek funding for trauma hospitals in the following ways:
- Increases automobile insurance policy fees by $2.00, 60% of which would go to trauma hospitals
- Diverts funds from a vehicle registration fee
- Increases state portion of some traffic fines from $30 to $50 and decreases municipal portion from 5% to 4%, 30% of which would go to trauma hospitals
Additionally, existing driver surcharges for those convicted of DWI would remain the same, except they would be characterized as “fines” rather than “surcharges.” They would be in the same amounts as the surcharges, and 30% would fund trauma hospitals. These “fines” would be in addition to the statutory fines that judges impose for DWI convictions.
One major drawback to the pending bills is that there is no amnesty program or means of eliminating surcharges still owing under the Driver Responsibility Program. While these bills may be helpful for many drivers moving forward, it does nothing to assist the 1.4 million estimated drivers who have had their licenses suspended due to a failure to pay surcharges. Plus, the vast majority of unpaid surcharges are not attributable to public safety issues, like surcharges assessed for DWIs. Rather, most surcharges are for traffic offenses such as driving without insurance. The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges, including charges involving bribery. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf in order to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our criminal defense attorneys today.