After a person is convicted of some criminal charges like DWI or No Insurance, Texas charges a “Surcharge”, apart from the criminal conviction in order to maintain one’s Texas driver’s license.
A surcharge is an administrative fee charged to a driver based on the convictions for DWI, No Insurance, No Drivers License, Driving With License suspended or when the driver accumulates a total of six or more points on the driving record.
• Ticket Convictions are reviewed annually
$100 for first 6 points PLUS $25 for each additional point Conviction-based
• Every year for 3 years:
Driving While Intoxicated 1st offense $1,000
Driving While Intoxicated 2nd or subsequent offense $1,500
Driving While Intoxicated with BAC ≥ 0.16 $2,000
Failure to Maintain Financial Responsibility $250
Driving While License Invalid $250
No Driver License $100
The Surcharges have been criticized from the beginning because they are hard to collect, and people get caught in a vicious criminal cycle if they can’t pay the surcharge. Failure to pay the surcharge results in the suspension of the driver’s license. That failure, leads to driving on a suspended license. That new offense itself carries another surcharge.
Most importantly, the Surcharges are charged and collected from people who do not have a Drivers License and undocumented immigrants who are not allowed the opportunity to get a drivers License. As a consequence, undocumented immigrants who, if allowed to obtain a drivers license, would not likely incur the Surcharges, are paying a disproportionate share. Simply because of the threat and fear of being arrested again.
There is a little known program called the Surcharge Indigence Program that requires the waiver of all surcharges for a person who is indigent. A person is considered to be indigent if the person proves to the court that convicted him or her of the offense that is the basis for the surcharge that the person is indigent.
To be considered, the following may be used as proof:
(1) A copy of the person’s most recent federal income tax return that shows that the person’s income or the person’s household income does not exceed 125 percent of the applicable income level established by the federal poverty guidelines;
Example of Poverty level
125% of the 2014 HHS Poverty Guidelines
Persons in Family
For each additional $5,075.00
300% of the 2014 HHS Poverty Guidelines
For each additional $12,180.00
(2) A copy of the person’s most recent statement of wages that shows that the person’s income or the person’s household income does not exceed 125 percent of the applicable income level established by the federal poverty guidelines; or
(3) Documentation from a federal agency, state agency, or school district that indicates that the person is indigent or, if the person is a dependent as defined by Section 152, Internal Revenue Code of 1986, the taxpayer claiming the person as a dependent, receives assistance from:
(A) The food stamp program or the financial assistance program established under Chapter 31, Human Resources Code,
(B) The federal special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children authorized by 42 U.S.C. Section 1786;
(C) The medical assistance program under Chapter 32, Human Resources Code;
(D) The child health plan program under Chapter 62, Health and Safety Code; or
(E) The national free or reduced- price lunch program.
It is important to know that The DPS must waive all surcharges for a person who is found indigent by the court that convicted the Client. For offenses that carry an automatic surcharge like DWI, No Insurance, No Drivers License, or Driving With License suspended, FMFR, courts may be able to determine if a person is indigent at the time conviction.
It is also possible that a Court could Order Community Service instead of payments.
DPS has said that it averages about 45 days to waive the actual surcharges; meaning that Clients may be receiving notices from the Municipal Services Bureau after the court has ordered the surcharge waived. Eventually, MSB does send a letter to the drivers informing them that the court has determined them to be indigent and that the surcharges have been waived.