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DWI Surcharges and the Texas Legislature

Governor Abbott repealed the much-hated Driver Responsibility Program Surcharges this legislative session and repealed Texas Transportation Code Section 708. This section provided for the collection of surcharges for license points, convictions for driving while license invalid, no insurance tickets etc. Further on September 1, 2019 the law requires the Department of Public Safety to reinstate licenses (with the appropriate fee paid of course) if the driver license was suspended ONLY for non-payment of Section 708 surcharges.

The repeal did NOT eliminate DWI surcharges and kept them as part of the law. The new Texas Transportation Code Section 709 reads (in relevant part) as follows:

CHAPTER 709. MISCELLANEOUS TRAFFIC FINES

Sec.709.001. TRAFFIC FINE FOR CONVICTION OF CERTAIN INTOXICATED DRIVER OFFENSES.

(a) In this section, "offense relating to the operating of a motor vehicle while intoxicated" has the meaning assigned by Section 49.09, Penal Code.

(b)... in addition to the fine prescribed for the specific offense, a person who has been finally convicted of an

offense relating to the operating of a motor vehicle while intoxicated shall pay a fine of:

(1) $3,000 for the first conviction within a 36-month period;

(2) $4,500 for a second or subsequent conviction within a 36-month period; and

(3) $6,000 for a first or subsequent conviction if it is shown on the trial of the offense that an analysis of a specimen of the person’s blood, breath, or urine showed an alcohol concentration level of 0.15 or more at the time the analysis was performed.

The only real change to the DWI surcharges in Texas was that the prior law increased the higher surcharge for a BAC of .16 or above, and the Penal Code enhanced the offense to a Class A Misdemeanor with a BAC of .15 or above. The differences were confusing and didn’t make sense.

The bottom line is, if you have surcharges for anything but a DWI, the state will not be able to collect those after September 1, 2019.

If you have surcharges for a DWI conviction, they are still valid and will be collected by the state. Failure to pay the DWI surcharges will result in a suspension of all driving privileges in Texas until such time as they are paid, or a payment plan is entered with the Texas DPS.

For those that wish to review the version of the bill that was signed by the Governor, click here for the text: https://legiscan.com/TX/text/HB2048/id/2027484