The End of the Driver Responsibility Program
The repeal of an unpopular piece of legislation will take place Sept. 1 as Texas rolls back its “Driver Responsibility Program. Gov. Greg Abbott recently signed H.B. 2048 ending the DRP.
The Program, enacted by the 78th Texas Legislature, required Texans who were convicted of certain traffic offenses – including DWI – to pay an annual surcharge on top of criminal penalties and court fines in order to maintain their driver’s licenses. On top of that, additional surcharges were possible for additional violations including driving without a license.
According to news reports, the Driver’s Responsibility Program has led to 1.5 million Texans having their licenses suspended. Once it takes effect on Sept. 1, those with past surcharges will effectively have their slates wiped clean of those additional administrative costs.
According to data from the Texas Department of Public Safety obtained by the ACLU of Texas:
- 634,933 people will automatically have their suspensions lifted when H.B. 2048 is enacted, because they have no other fees or underlying suspensions;
- 350,027 will have their suspensions lifted when H.B. 2048 is enacted after paying a reinstatement fee; and
- 398,163 people will be eligible to have their suspensions lifted after they resolve other non-DRP reasons for their license suspension, such as failure to pay or appear.
The program’s surcharges for things like driving without a license or driving under the influence ranged in cost from as little as $250 for a minor violation up to $2,000 for a DWI with a BAC of 0.15 or greater. These surcharges were in addition to the fines that are associated with another criminal conviction, adding yet another layer of financial hardship for those who could least afford it following a DWI.
After Sept. 1, a driver who receives a repeat DWI conviction will still face increasing criminal penalties but only as outlined in the criminal code and handed down by a court of law following a trial. We applaud the Legislature and the Governor for rolling back this program and allowing justice to be served appropriately for those who are convicted of additional violations.
An individual convicted of a DWI could potentially still have their license suspended, and violations of that suspension could still result in a traffic ticket or criminal charge. But the administrative surcharges on top of the criminal charges or citations are gone as of Sept. 1.
This helpful change will benefit drivers who have faced burdensome penalties that are especially hurtful to those of lower income levels who may not have met the indigence requirements for relief within the program.
So, should you pay your surcharges? At this point, we would suggest that deciding whether or not to continue paying your surcharges depends on your risk aversion. If your license is NOT currently suspended, we recommend you keep paying for another month. If you quit paying, the state may suspend your driver’s license, which could leave you without a driver’s license.
Have more questions? Talk to us. We’d love to help you with getting your past DWI record sealed.