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Driver Responsibility Program Repealed?

The Texas Tribune reported this week that state lawmakers are considering eliminating the Driver Responsibility Program that was created in 2003 “to generate money and discourage unsafe driving.” The program tacks on a surcharge to drivers who get ticketed for various moving violations like driving while intoxicated, driving without insurance and driving without a license. Since inception, “DPS has been unable to collect more than $1 billion in fines they’ve issued” and have clogged Texas courtrooms with people who have failed to pay these fines. Rep. Lon Burman “argued that the surcharge program is unconstitutional because it puts drivers in double jeopardy, punishing them twice for the same offense.”

In hopes to collect on the $1 billion of unpaid fines, DPS has initiated an amnesty program for drivers “whose licenses have been suspended are eligible if they had a surcharge assessed between Sept. 30, 2004 and Dec. 31, 2008, and were delinquent on payments.” The amnesty program runs through April 17.

The Dallas Morning News also had a similar report which added that almost 60 percent of assessed surcharges have not been collected. It is estimated that the state receives $86 million a year in revenue from drivers who are paying the surcharges. And because the Texas Driver Responsibility Program is a large revenue source for the state, Rep. Berman has suggested a tax increase on cigarettes to make up for the lost revenue.

DWI Probation Program

EscortFox ran a report last week of a Tarrant County DWI probation program called Felony Alcohol Intervention Project. It is designed for offenders with three or more DWIs. This program these repeat offenders to accept a “plea bargain for a seven-year prison sentence that is probated to four years. The goal of the program is to reduce the number of injuries and deaths from alcohol related accidents. Currently, there are 175 probationers with 10 graduates.

FAIP include the following requirements:

  • 10 days jail
  • work 40 hours a week
  • Driver’s license suspense for 6 months to a year
  • random urinalysis
  • counseling and alcohol treatment; including daily meeting for the first 90 days
  • ankle monitor that detects alcohol for the first 90 days
  • attend court weekly for judicial review
  • meet with their probation officer once a week
  • community service at homeless shelters

While this may be good resolution for some folks, it is clearly not a one size fits all solution. Some case just need fighting, and not just a quick probation outcome. If this type of programs comes to Austin, we will sure look at on a client by client bases. Pleading guilty to a felony DWI is always an avenue of last resort.

DWI bills in the 82nd Legislature

In this session, like in previous one, some state legislators targeted drunk drivers but most of those proposals, seem to be going nowhere. Here are some of the bills and their status three weeks before the Legislature adjourns. .

Bill Goal Status

  • SB 231 To revoke driving privileges of anyone with two convictions. In committee
  • HB 99 Third-degree felony for anyone with a previous conviction. House calendar
  • HB 101 A hotline to report suspected cases of impaired driving. In committee
  • HB 189 Mandating ignition interlock for any DWI conviction. Attached to other bill
  • HB 237 To mark driver’s license of anyone with a prior conviction. In committee
  • HB 3477 Ten-year driver’s license suspension after five convictions. To full House

Fortunately, the Legislature seems distracted with cutting education funding, cutting back who can vote, and making sure the police don’t give immigrants any protection from deportation even when they are witnesses to a crime, to care much about DWIs this session.