The Dallas Observer recently ran an article sharing that, as of September 1, 2019, the much-maligned Texas Driver Responsibility Program is no more. By signing the new bill into effect, the governor clears the way for many, many Texans to regain driving privileges. The program was generally considered onerous, and most consider the change a step in the right direction for Texas.
The Driver Responsibility Program
The Driver Responsibility Program was implemented to impose surcharges on Texas motorists who were convicted of infractions such as driving without a license or driving under the influence. These surcharges went over and above the standard fines and penalties imposed by the convictions themselves. For example, a driver convicted of driving with an invalid license would have to pay $250 per year for 3 years while a driver convicted of driving with a blood-alcohol level that was at least twice the legal limit was facing surcharges of $2,000 per year for 3 years. Further, a driver who racked up too many points on his or her license could also face surcharges.
A Slippery Slope
While these surcharges were considered troublesome by all who encountered them, they were especially challenging for Texas’s most vulnerable citizens. For a person living on an extremely limited income, such a surcharge could prove to be a financial unraveling. For example:
- When a driver with limited financial means was hit with a surcharge on top of the fines associated with his or her driving conviction, paying the surcharge was a financial hardship.
- Many such drivers could not afford to keep their driver’s licenses, which made it more difficult for them to get to and from work (leaving them even more vulnerable).
- This process left many drivers more susceptible to incurring more tickets (driving without a license, for example) and even more surcharges.
Many have likened these Driver Responsibility Program surcharges to a purchase price for one’s liberty.
The ACLU Weighs In
Terri Burke, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas, shares that the organization has worked for years to end the Driver Responsibility Program. Burke points out the conundrum inherent to the program – assessing additional charges for traffic tickets only serves to remove Texas’s poorest citizens from the workforce – leaving them poorer still. With the program’s end, more than half a million Texans immediately became eligible to reinstate their driver’s licenses. Finally, ditching this program also gets Texas out of a legal jam – a civil rights advocacy group alleges that the program violates equal protection under the U.S. Constitution and brought a suit against the state in December.
If You Are Facing Criminal Charges, Consult with an Experienced Attorney Today
If you are facing criminal charges, you need a criminal defense attorney on your side, and Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is here to help. For more information, please do not hesitate to contact or call us at (254) 220-4225 today.