Starting September 1st of 2019, what has been a long-standing barrier for those convicted of DWI to regain and retain their Texas driver licenses will be no more.
The Driver Responsibility Program of Texas, viewed by DWI attorneys as a major obstacle that prevented their clients from being able to drive after a conviction, has officially been repealed.
With the signing of House Bill 2048 by Governor Abbot, drivers convicted of DWI will now be able to drive again after fulfilling their required penalties but without the added and many times prohibitive expense associated with the DRP.
What Is the Driver Responsibility Program?
The Texas Driver Responsibility Program or DRP is a financial responsibility program that has been in existence for 16 years.
Due to the DRP, any Texas driver convicted of DWI and wishing to maintain their driver's license has to pay a yearly surcharge of $1,000 to $2,000 to retain their driving privileges.
According to DWI attorneys, lower surcharges also applied to other less serious offenses like driving without insurance, driving without a license, and others.
This unpopular program was established to deter driving while intoxicated and provide funding to support the state’s trauma care network.
While these driver fines appeared to be a great resource to fund the trauma care program, many criminal defense lawyers found the program was prohibitive for especially low-income drivers, as these 3-year surcharges were in addition to any fine they were assessed if convicted of DWI.
How Did the DRP DWI Surcharge Negatively Impact Drivers?
The main problem DWI attorneys found with the DRP over the years was that it often made driving impossible during that 3-year period for millions of drivers unable to pay the surcharge.
Without the ability to drive, many convicted drivers were unable to maintain a job or do other essential, everyday tasks.
Essentially, the DRP punished drivers a second time even if they had already fulfilled the fines and/or other punishments levied on them as a result of their DWI conviction.
Where Will the Funds Come From Now?
Although HB 2048 removes the DWI surcharge and makes it easier for convicted drivers to regain or retain their driving privileges, criminal defense lawyers stress the fact that to make up for it, the funds will be gathered from other sources.
Most notably, DWI fines will be significantly higher in certain cases, by as much as $6,000 for certain offenses.
Additionally, the bill will add $2 annually to everyone’s automobile insurance fees and some lesser traffic penalties will see a slight increase as well.
HB 2048 Dissolves the DRP September 1, 2019
Starting September 1 of this year, the Texas Driver Responsibility Program will end and as a result, nearly 635,000 drivers who have been convicted of DWI can regain their driving privileges without any other payments, over 350,000 can drive again after paying a reinstatement fee, and almost 398,000 drivers only need to resolve other issues about the suspension of their license.
Once the change goes into effect, nearly 1.5 million Texas drivers who could not pay the surcharge will regain their licenses and those newly convicted will not have to deal with it.
DWI attorneys do stress that DWI fines are on the rise; even without the DRP surcharge, so the best solution to this problem is to avoid driving while intoxicated!
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