Texas Surcharge Program

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is authorized by the Driver Responsibility Program to assess surcharges to individuals based on specific traffic offenses. Surcharges may be assessed for a driver accumulating more than a specified number of points on their driving record or for certain traffic crime convictions.

The largest surcharges assessed by DPS are for people convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI). Failure to pay surcharges can result in suspension of a driver’s license.

If you have concerns about your ability to pay surcharges relating to your DWI case in the greater Dallas area, make sure to contact the Law Offices of RJ Harber. Our firm has been helping individuals in Texas fight DWI charges for more than a decade.

RJ Harber offers a unique understanding of how these cases are handled because of his prior experience as a prosecutor in Tarrant County. He can review your case and discuss all of your legal options when you call (214) 389-1189 or complete an online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

How Surcharges Work in Texas

Convictions are added to a driver record when DPS receives notification from the court. There can be a delay between the date of a conviction and the date it is added to the driver record.

People are notified by mail when a surcharge is added to their driver record, and the surcharge is in addition to any other fees. If a driver receives surcharges for both points-based and conviction-based violations, the surcharges are separate.

Surcharges can be up to $250 for driving without insurance, up to $100 for driving with an expired license or without a license, and up to $250 for driving while a license is canceled, suspended, denied, or revoked. As surcharges relate to DWI offenses, Texas assesses the following for such convictions:

  • First DWI — A first conviction in Texas or out of state for DWI, intoxication assault, or intoxication manslaughter results in a surcharge of $1,000.
  • Subsequent DWI — A second or subsequent conviction for DWI, intoxication assault, or intoxication manslaughter results in a surcharge of $1,500.

DWI with Breath or Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.16 or More — Any conviction for DWI in which an alleged offender has a BAC of 0.16 or higher results in a surcharge of $2,000.

Surcharges must be paid every year for three years. DPS contracts with an outside vendor called Municipal Services Bureau (MSB) to collect surcharges, and MSB is authorized to charge numerous service fees in addition to the surcharge, including possible service fees of 4 percent of the surcharge amount, installment plan fees, credit or debit card fees, and electronic check fees.

People have 105 days to satisfy surcharge program payment options. Failure to pay within 105 days will result in suspension of a person’s driver’s license.

People convicted of DWI do have the option of paying all surcharges in a single payment, but only during the first year of surcharges.  

Avoiding DWI Surcharges in Texas

The simplest way to avoid DWI surcharges is to not be convicted of DWI. Even if you are able to negotiate a deal to plead guilty to reckless driving, this can spare you the burden of the surcharges that accompany DWI convictions.

DPS does have indigency and incentive programs that can help some people facing surcharges. The indigency program waives surcharges for individuals with incomes at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, while the incentive program can reduce the amount of surcharges for individuals above 125 percent but below 300 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

When a person is convicted of DWI in Texas, the defense attorney can present a judge with a motion to waive surcharges. The judge will usually sign the order when the lawyer can prove that the alleged offender satisfies the indigency program requirement of an income being at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

The incentive program can reduce the surcharge amount by 50 percent. Any person approved for a reduction under the incentive program must pay the amount within six months, or their driver’s license will be suspended until the balance is paid in full.

Applying for the indigency or incentive program can be done online, and several different forms of supporting documentation may be required. Virtually all applicants will need copies of their two most recent bank statements, as well as copies of their two most recent pay statements.

When a person is unemployed, they will need a copy of their unemployment approval or denial letter. Other required documents in applicable cases can include copies of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, Medicaid benefits statements, veterans benefits, and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 1040 or Form 1099.

Other possible surcharge reduction programs include reductions made for military deferrals. Active members of the United State Armed Forces can be eligible for these deferrals.

For many people, the surcharges program can quickly become a long-term struggle to keep up with payments and deal with accompanying driver’s license suspensions. The possibility of surcharges adds to the importance of retaining legal counsel, as a lawyer will be able to help protect a person from having to incur the possible thousands of dollars in surcharges.

Contact a DWI Defense Attorney to Fight Surcharges

Do you need help with DWI surcharges in Texas? The Law Offices of RJ Harber helps clients facing DWI charges in Dallas and the surrounding areas. Our firm assists in every aspect of your DWI case, from license suspension hearings to criminal cases to accompanying surcharges.

Our attorney can fight to possibly have your criminal charges reduced or dismissed so you do not have to deal with the surcharges being assessed. Call (214) 389-1189 or contact us online to have our lawyers provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case during a free consultation.