Monday, February 12, 2007

Bad TX law fills roads with unlicensed drivers, county jails with non-crooks

Dallas released hundreds of low-level offenders last week to make room in the county jail, reported the Dallas News ("Low level felons let out of Dallas County Jail," Feb. 12), but they're far from solving their problems.

Over at Dallas Sidebar, former Dallas District and 5th Court of Appeals Judge Ron Chapman places part of the blame on the Legislature for enacting huge surcharges on tickets for DWIs and people driving without a license, disingenuously dubbed the "Driver Responsibility Program." IMO it should have been called the Legislative Irresponsibility Program. Said Chapman:
The Legislature is to blame for the huge number of DWLS prisoners, thanks to the ridiculous "$3,000 driver's licenses" required of those convicted of DWLS or DWI. What indigent defendant can afford that? They're just going to continue to drive without a license and fill up our jail. ....
The massive fee was created in 2003 as part of the Lege's response to that year's massive budget crunch, and it's estimated to raise $3 million per week in revenue. According to defense counsel who handle these cases, most people who receive the fine don't know their license was suspended in the first place.

Texas' "Driver Responsibility Program" is a great example of law driven by revenue maximization instead of public safety. Half of the money from these large fines go straight into the general revenue fund, the Legislative Budget Board told the House Appropriations Criminal Justice Subcommittee last week. DPS takes an administration fee, and the rest goes to the state's trauma care fund.

Here's the rub: Most people don't pay, so we actually have MORE people driving around with suspended licenses in Texas. The overall collection rate for the surcharge has only been 28%; the "compliance" rate was 33% (the difference being people who made a commitment to pay but didn't). Those who can't pay can't renew their license, but most, obviously still continue to drive.

LBB recommended a reduction in surcharges, as well as allowing reinstatement of installment plans after non-payment and periodic amnesty programs. I hope somebody at the Lege will have the guts to propose that, but I'm afraid the Legislature so far doesn't seem to be in the mood for repealing fees. On this one, though, they should make an exception. It's just a bad law.


Anonymous said...

Johnny pays a no insurance ticket 'cause it's easier than going to court and showing his insurance. The address on his license isn't current 'cause he's in college, so he doesn't get the letter about his surcharge, or about getting an SR-22 to avoid a suspension. He gets stopped for driving with his license suspended. He pays a bond, a lawyer, a fine, and now has the $75 original surcharge PLUS $250/year for 3 years for driving while suspended. He gets an installment plan, skips a payment, gets resuspended and pulled over while trying to get to work. Another bond, lawter, fine and ANOTHER $250/year for three years...and he never even really broke the law! Why have a license?

Anonymous said...

This law is a poor tax plain and simple. Surely Texas can do better than that!

Anonymous said...

This program is nothing more than a money scam initialized by the great Texas State Government. It is absolutely rediculous that my little $10.00 driving with an expired insurance ticket (the insurance which I by the way had sitting on my dining room table)is now going to cost me a whopping 790.00 when it's all said and done. I tried to fight it, but can you really? The answer to that is NO. Now, I'm driving with an suspended license, because it is going to take approximately 5-10 business days for the Suspension to lift. Oh, and if I don't drive illegally, I can't go to work, which means I can't pay my bills, which means I'll become a burden on the government.

I'm so sick and tired of being caught up in these situations, with no light at the end of the tunnel, because our state legislature feels that it's ok to poke us in the eye every chance it gets to.

ipiphinizion said...


Anonymous said...

Anonymous said it best! That is EXACTLY what has happened to me. I did some research and found that there is a tremendous amount of people who are experiencing the pain of this horrendous law.

Here is the link to a site I found where there is a petition going on.

This is what I've paid for so far:
$250 insurance ticket, $50 first time bail, three $250 surcharges, $500 second time bail (since DWLS was 'upgraded' to a Class B Mis), ^ $462 in pre=ad insurance, $15 for driving record, not to mention countless hours on the phone (mostly on hold) with the DPS and the DRP people, I spent Christmas Eve in jail because I got pulled over.

This is a scam. We need to do something about it!

Anonymous said...

"his is a scam. We need to do something about it!"

How about.. obey the law? Then you wouldn't be in this situation in the first place.

Anonymous said...

"If the law is to be respected, it needs to be respectable."

This is one of the very few times I have been grateful to no longer live in Texas.