What Is a DWI Surcharge?
Posted in DWI - Driving While Intoxicated on May 3, 2019
In Texas, a driving while intoxicated (DWI) surcharge is an administrative penalty. It is a fee the Department of Public Safety charges as a requirement for maintaining your driver’s license post-DWI conviction. A DWI surcharge can bring the total costs of your DWI conviction much higher than the initial penalties, as the surcharge applies per year for three years. You will not be able to lawfully drive until you have paid off all of the DWI surcharges.
Texas Driver Responsibility Program
The Texas Driver Responsibility Program gives the Texas Department of Public Safety the power to add surcharges to an individual’s DWI penalties as of September 1st, 2003. These surcharges are in addition to other fees. The details of the Driver Responsibility Program are in Chapter 708 of the Texas Transportation Code. This statute says that each year, the department will assess a surcharge on to the driver’s license of someone who has accumulated six or more points during a three-year period.
The point system is something the state uses to penalize drivers for traffic offenses. Different offenses will accumulate a number of points to the driver’s license. Accumulating too many points in a short amount of time could lead to suspension or revocation of the driver’s license. A moving violation or out-of-state moving violation is two points, and a moving violation that causes a crash is three points. A driver will need to pay a surcharge if he or she accumulates six or more points within 36 months.
The driver will pay $100 per year for the first six points and an additional $25 for each point after that. Driving with no insurance comes with a $250 surcharge, as does driving while license invalid. Driving without a license is a $100 surcharge. For all of these offenses, the Department of Public Safety will assess the related surcharge every year for three years. Chapter 708 also states the surcharge will apply to anyone with a driving while intoxicated conviction.
Section 708.102(c) of the Texas Transportation Code says that the amount of the DWI surcharge will be $1,000 per year for a typical DWI conviction, over the course of not more than three years. If the individual gets a second or subsequent DWI conviction within 36 months, the surcharge increases to $1,500 per year. An aggravated DWI, or one where the driver had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.16 or higher, will result in a $2,000 surcharge per year. These surcharges do not replace penalties such as driver’s license suspension or revocation.
Frequently Asked Questions About DWI Surcharges
A conviction for driving while intoxicated in Texas will automatically require the driver to pay the annual DWI surcharge. Since the Department of Public Safety must wait to receive notification from the court to add a DWI conviction to the driver record, a delay may occur between the actual conviction and the initiation of surcharges. If this is the driver’s first DWI conviction in Texas, he or she most likely has a few questions about the DWI surcharge program.
Do I need to pay a surcharge if I accumulate under six points?
If you committed a traffic offense that resulted in four or five points to your license, you may have received an Advisory notice in the mail. This notice is to let you know that if you accrue any more points, you will have to pay a surcharge. At the time you receive the notice, you do not have to pay a surcharge.
How do I know if I have a surcharge?
You will receive an official notice from the Department of Public Safety. The notice will come in the mail, to the address on file at the department or a forwarding address through the United States Postal Service. By law, you must notify the Department of an address change within 30 days of moving.
Do I need to pay the surcharge even if I paid the license reinstatement fee?
Yes. The surcharge for a DWI comes in addition to all other fees you will need to pay during your DWI case – including the amount it will cost you to reinstate a suspended or revoked driver’s license.
How long do I have to pay the DWI surcharge?
You have 105 days from the date you receive the mail notice to pay your DWI surcharge. Otherwise, you will face suspension of your driving privileges. If you pay your surcharge by mail, allow at least three days for processing.
Do I have to pay my surcharge as a lump sum?
The Department of Public Safety offers payment plans for DWI surcharges. You may pay off your debt in monthly installments, with a $2.50 service fee for each payment. If you miss a monthly payment, you will lose your driving privileges. If your payment agreement goes into default, you must submit the minimum monthly amount or pay the balance in full to reinstate the agreement.
How do I pay the surcharge?
The Department makes it easy for drivers to pay off their DWI surcharges. You can pay each individual year or all three years in advance. You can also pay in a lump sum or multiple payments. You can make a payment online; use a money order or wire transfer; or pay using electronic check or credit/debit card at HEB, Western Union, Walmart, Kroger or MoneyGram. You can also mail in a check or money order to:
- Surcharge Processing
PO Box 16733
Austin, Texas 78761-6733
- Surcharge Processing
What happens if I do not pay the DWI surcharges?
You have to pay the DWI surcharges if you wish to return to the road as a lawful driver. If you do not pay, the Department will suspend your driver’s license inevitably, until you pay the surcharges in full or begin an installation agreement. You may also face additional collection or service fees.
What if I cant afford to pay the DWI surcharge?
A DWI conviction is expensive. If you are facing financial hardship but do not wish to lose your driving privileges, you can take steps to save on your DWI surcharges.
Texas Indigency Program
The Texas Indigency Program waives the DWI surcharge requirement for some drivers. Qualifying drivers are those who do not make enough to reasonably pay the surcharge. If you are living at or below 125% of the federal poverty level ($15,175 for one person), the Department may waive your surcharges entirely, without affecting your driving privileges. To find out if you qualify, complete the application online or print it out and mail it in. You will need supporting documents such as recent bank statements, Medicaid or SSI benefits statements, recent tax documents, evidence of dependents, and unemployment letters.
Texas Incentive Program
The Texas Incentive Program does not completely waive DWI surcharges, but it does lower the amount to 50% of the total, plus related fees. This can help low-income drivers afford the surcharges and maintain their driving privileges. The same documentation and application rules apply to apply for the Incentive Program as the Indigency Program. You may qualify for this surcharge reduction if you make between 125% and 300% of the federal poverty level. The Incentive Program can also relieve a surcharge license suspension for six months. If you need assistance paying for your DWI surcharge or applying for relief, contact an attorney.