Thursday, October 14, 2010

Amnesty, Indigence rules for Driver Responsibility Program up for vote next week

Mike Ward at the Austin Statesman reports that the Public Safety Commission is expected to approve new Indigence and Amnesty rules for the Driver Responsibility Program at their next meeting October 21 (pdf). Writes Ward:
Facing more than $1.1 billion in uncollected fines from errant Texas motorists who are driving illegally without licenses, state officials are poised to approve an amnesty program to try to get some of them legal again.

Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security on Wednesday that two changes expected to be approved soon will allow scofflaws to pay off their fines at big discounts.

Drivers who pay during an amnesty period starting in December could get off by paying 10 percent of their fine, up to $250, and drivers who can prove they are legally indigent can get a similar deal starting in April, officials said.

"There are $1.1 billion in surcharges that, at present, have not been paid," McCraw said. "If everyone paid under this plan, about $17 million would be collected."

At issue are more than 1.2 million Texas drivers in the Driver Responsibility Program, which the Legislature approved in 2004 as a way to toughen up enforcement of traffic laws and to curb drunken driving.
State Sen. Tommy Williams was quoted saying the "easiest way to stay out of [the program] is to obey the law," but I wonder about the context of the quote since, back in 2007, Williams himself voted in committee for Sen. Steve Ogden's legislation authorizing DPS' new rules. It would be somewhat of a flip flop if he now opposes the rulemaking he earlier voted to allow. I wasn't at the hearing so it's hard to know what if anything to read into such a statement.

In any event, it's good to hear things are on track to approve the rules at the Public Safety Commission's meeting next week. It's been a long road since Grits first petitioned for rulemaking on this subject last summer.

See related Grits posts:


Anonymous said...

Amnesty is need to collect some of the required surcharges. However a better fix would be to lower the surcharges to a more moderate level of penalty. Indigence is also needed but on a limited basis, and those requesting should be required to show ample proof of their income status.

As a police officer I always find it curious how people on WIC, LoneStar Card on other government assistance always find a way to afford to buy a 50" flat screen TV, PS3 game system, DVR, BlueRay player and best of all 26" wheels for their car but when I ask for insurance their response is I can't afford it. There priority's are out of line not their income.

The Driver Responsibility Program is need as money from this program funds trauma center's at hospitals, and various other progrmas State wide that are used to care for those who drive intoxicated and those without insurance.

I always love how people complain about their surcharges, I always reply "Stop breaking the LAW and you won't get new charges".

Anonymous said...

Surcharges ought to be done away entirely. As well as this convenient fiction that .08 is the magical, evil number. It's all about money, looking 'tough on crime', and placating the MADD people. I'm curious about exactly when we moved from punishing people who actually hurt someone, to punishing people who might possibly hurt someone based on junk science. Bunch of horse crap.

Anonymous said...

10:44 : Self righteously spoken like an obedient cog in a corrupt system. Even you shouldn't be able, in good conscience, to assert that 'the LAW' is fair and just. Everybody breaks the law, because we have so damned many. Many of them completely asinine or conflicting. Or worse yet, purely profit motivated. Like surcharges. Stop spouting the party line, and think for yourself.

Anonymous said...

Either 10:24 is checking people's auto insurance in their living rooms or the drivers he pulls over carry around 50" flat screens and playstation consoles in their cars. The other option: 10:24 is lying.

Randy said...

The Texas Constitution Article 1 - BILL OF RIGHTS Section 13 - EXCESSIVE BAIL OR FINES; CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT; REMEDY BY DUE COURSE OF LAW Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel or unusual punishment inflicted. All courts shall be open, and every person for an injury done him, in his lands, goods, person or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of law. The Texas Constitution Article 1 - BILL OF RIGHTS Section 14 - DOUBLE JEOPARDY No person, for the same offense, shall be twice put in jeopardy of life or liberty, nor shall a person be again put upon trial for the same offense, after a verdict of not guilty in a court of competent jurisdiction.... Am I missing something here???

Randy said...

"I always love how people complain about their surcharges, I always reply "Stop breaking the LAW and you won't get new charges". Are you kidding?? How about the single mom that did in fact get charged with a DWI, but felt she was wrongly accused? Paid her bail, paid her Attorney, paid pre-trial probation, paid every month for the interlock, paid for all the time off to go to court only to be re-set multiple times, lost time from work from being called in for random test. This goes on for two years and she hadn't even seen a Judge or been convicted for anything... Just charged. She finally runs out of funds to continue the fight and gives in to just put the whole nightmare behind her. Then she paid the fine, paid the court cost, paid DWI class, paid M.A.D.D., paid another probation office, pays for more time off work to visit probation officer, still paid for the interlock, pays for her insurance to go through the roof. This goes on for another year. That's three years of paying. Then DPS comes in for there share because she was convicted of a DWI that she just couldn't afford to fight anymore. I have to agree with R. Shackleford... Spoken like a true patsy / self fulfilling prophecy.

Don said...

Wandered into a hornet's nest, didn't you 10:44? Might pay to take some of your own advice in principle: Stop spouting party line nonsense and give what you're saying a little critical thought, and maybe you won't be chastised and ridiculed when you post something on a blog. Just a thought.
But I have a question maybe somebody can answer. I like the amnesty and indigence rules, (although I want to see the whole thing REPEALED in the body that created it). But what happens with the person who has already struggled and kept up their surcharge payments, but still lack a bundle having them all paid. And can't qualify for indigence? Will their charges also be lowered to a total of $250? Doesn't seem fair, otherwise. Somebody please advise. Thanks

Don said...

R. Shackleford is RIGHT ON!

Randy said...

I completely understand what you're saying Don. Unfortunately, to get a refund from the State for a mistake they made would probably be like pulling teeth. I kind of look at it as an on going war. You can't possibly help the casualties, but if you can put an end to the war, you'll prevent further casualties. And yes... It is very un-fair. The Indigence program itself seems like a total "leave nothing on the table" scam to me. If a drunk driver kills someone, that person is still dead. No matter if the person that killed them was below poverty, or has millions. Just seems that the State is trying to rake in all the cash it can while hiding behind the robe of lady justice... Just my 2 penny's.

Don said...

Randy, I know they won't get a refund. But will they get their balance owed reduced to $250, or 10% of the total, if they are NOT behind on payments?

Don Dickson said...

Bravo, R. Shackleford! Well put.

I had another infuriating experience this week, though not involving a surcharge. I have a client who lost control of his motorcycle and went off the road. He sustained a broken thumb but no other injuries.

He's at the hospital being treated when a Trooper shows up and starts asking questions. The Trooper tell him he's not under arrest, but then reads him the statutory warnings, which begin with "you are under arrest..."

My confused and apprehensive client refuses to provide a specimen. Trooper says that's fine, I'll get your BAC from the hospital. Trooper confiscates my client's license and gives him a temporary driving permit, and leaves.

Client is discharged. Client is never charged with any offense. Trooper never asks hospital for anything or obtains any warrant or subpoena for hospital records.

I request an ALR hearing and request discovery. Hearing is set for a month later. A week before the hearing, I send a fax to DPS saying hey, where is my discovery? I get no response.

At 9am on the morning of the 1pm hearing, DPS lawyer leaves me a VM message asking for a continuance. I don't get the message, I'm in court. At 11am, DPS lawyer faxes me a motion for continuance, which I don't get until my client is already at my office to pick me up to schlep up to frickin' Round Rock together.

We get to Round Rock, I explain to the ALJ that I oppose the continuance for all of the foregoing reasons, and because if I'd asked DPS for a continuance at 9am on the morning of the hearing I'd surely be told that's too late to be asking for one.

Continuance granted! So now my client, who has never even received a ticket let alone been arrested for anything, and who has now been driving with this silly piece of paper in his glove box and cashing checks with his passport for two months, has to wait another month or more for resolution, and he and I are going to have to schlep to Round Rock a second time, where I'm sure we'll find out that no one sent me any discovery because there's nothing to send, and yada-yada-yada.

I have no tolerance for driving while intoxicated. None. And precious little sympathy for anyone who gets caught doing it. But almost everything about Texas DWI law pisses me off.

Don Dickson said...

BTW Grits, don't miss the meeting. It's 10/21, not 10/22.

Randy said...

Don, the sad truth is that if you don't qualify as being below the poverty line, they probably won't reduce anything. I sure hope I'm wrong.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Damn, thanks Donald! I took the date from Ward, but will change it per your correction.

And I'll be there.

Don said...

Donald, most of us feel the same way you do. It's not DWI we are defending, it's the unjust, screwed up, inequitable, idiotic laws and the administration thereof that get everybody so cottonpickin' frustrated. The system is frickin' BUSTED!

Anonymous said...

To respond to anonymous 7:40AM. I live in a county of 20,000. The same people I stop for traffic violations during the week without insurance and with surcharges are the same houses I get called to on Friday and Saturday night for fights and assualt family violence. Inside these homes are the 50" flat screen TV, PS3 game system, DVR, BlueRay player and car parked in the driveway with 26 inch wheels. I know these people are on government assistance from experience due to the fact that I am required by jail policy to inventory everything in the purse or wallet including the LoneStar card. These are the same people who can afford to pay 10% of a $5,000 to $10,000 bond the next morning but can't afford insurance or to pay "Their" surcharges.

To respond to 6:17AM, yes everyone breaks the Law, no one is perfect. But the vast majority of people do not drive drunk, or get 4 or 5 speeding tickets in one year and do acquire a drivers license and insurance before they drive. The ones who choose to drink and drive I do not feel sorry for. I have had to tell a family member their loved one is dead, because Good'Ole Jim drank to much and ran the stop sign. If you get caught DWI, the least you can do is pay out of your pocket for putting the rest of us at risk because you were to cheap for a cab ride.

After reading this blog for several months I have started leaving anonymous comments to get the ordinary citizen to look at things from a plain old cop's perspective. I have no reason to lie, I have been called far worse than a lier at 4:00AM by a stoned, drunk punks. These are just my experiences that are experienced everyday by officers in this State and Country.


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Randy said...

Can't you see? This system is not about keeping drunk drivers off the street. It's about generating state revenue by it's own admission. I was convicted of a DWI and it makes me shutter to think of what could have happened if I hadn't been pulled over that night. I have small children of my own, and I thank God that cop did his job. It's one thing to pay your debt to society, but quite another to pay again to the state for the same thing. This is about a corrupt system the state has put in place that most people don't even know about... Not DWI. I may not agree with your point of view on this matter, but I'll be the first to say "Thank you for putting yourself on the line so that our world can be a safer place.

Richard Barbosa said...

Anonymous 10:44, before I respond to anything you've said, I must ask:

Are you mentally challenged?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like 10:44 has a real chip on his shoulder that is clouding his better judgment. I hope he can keep that anger under control on the street (but I doubt it).

Anonymous said...

The same reasons that people don't have liability insurance are the same reasons they don't have health insurance. They can't afford with all the other bills they have to pay, especially those making small wages.

But wait, Obama took care and got me health insurance. He can take care of my car insurance by making you taxpayers pay for what is rightfully mine.

Don said...

I think everybody should just leave Anon: 10:44 alone and let him live in his fantasy world. The one where a county of 20,000 is a representative sample of the state of Texas and lying means the same thing as being a "lier". Mentally challenged? Perhaps. But mostly he just doesn't get it. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't.

Mary Moody said...

Thanks for the post Gritts, I will be there at the meeting. I wonder what time it will be? No Matter, I will be there. Anyone who wants to join or speak, join me:

Thanks again Gritts, I'm a faithful subscriber and appreciate your artices.