Thursday, January 06, 2011

DPS announces rollout of amnesty, indigence programs for Driver Responsibility surcharge

The Texas Department of Public Safety has finally released more details about the rollout of Amnesty and Indigence programs for the Driver Responsibility surcharge, from their Public Information Office's Chaparral newsletter (pdf) pointed out to me by an alert reader:
Texans whose driver licenses have been suspended for failing to pay state-mandated surcharges are urged to take advantage of a one-time payment amnesty from late January to late April 2011.

The Texas Department of Public Safety will offer lower payments to individuals who have been suspended and are in default on their surcharges. The goal of the amnesty period is to bring drivers into compliance with the surcharge law, and allow them to become licensed and insured drivers.

Those eligible for the Amnesty Program are anyone who had a surcharge assessed between Sept. 30, 2004, and Dec. 31, 2008, and were delinquent on those payments. The surcharges meeting the above criteria must be in default before the amnesty period. Those who qualify for the Amnesty Program will pay 10 percent of the original amount owed for all surcharges combined, for a maximum amount of $250.

Service fees will still apply. Any payments already made will be applied to the reduced amount, and if prior payments are more than the reduced amount due, no payment will be required. Prior payments more than the reduced amount due will not be refunded.

To apply for the Amnesty Program in late January, see the surcharge website at or call 1-800-688-6882. No requests will be accepted by mail, email or fax.

Once the online or telephone application is approved, the surcharge suspensions will be cleared on the applicant's driving record within three business days. Applicants will be provided the reduced amount to pay, and they can begin making payments after three business days.

Applicants for the Amnesty Program can pay in full or make payments, but the full amount must be paid by April 17, 2011. If payment in full is not received by April 17,2011, the reduction is voided and the suspensions are put back on the driving record. The Department does not have plans to offer another amnesty period.

An indigency program will be offered after the amnesty program ends in April. The Indigency program will apply to individuals at or below 125% of poverty level, using a sworn affidavit, will reduce the amount to 10 percent of total surcharges owed not to exceed $250, and will rescind suspension for those who receive indigency while payments are being made. Anyone assessed a surcharge since Sept. 30, 2004 will be eligible for the Indigency program.
Just a few observations:

For starters, though I take tremendous pleasure at seeing these programs finally roll out, I'm a bit disappointed that Amnesty will only apply to surcharges assessed through 12/31/08. I understand they didn't want people to fail to pay new surcharges in order to wait on amnesty, but I was hoping they would include an extra year, at least though 2009. Still, amnesty could help potentially tens or even hundreds of thousands of people, and as my father likes to say, it's better than a sharp stick in the eye.

For those who want to use tax refund money to pay their amnesty or indigence fees, file your taxes as soon as you get your tax papers from your employer! If you wait until April 15 to file, you won't get your return in time to participate in the Amnesty program.

Critical to success of the Amnesty program will be how heavily DPS and their contractor, Municipal Services Bureau, promote the program to drivers with defaulted surcharges. Ideally, I'd like to see them aggressively mail and phone those in default encouraging them to participate, or most people simply won't be aware of the opportunity. Further, instead of simply mailing people at the address on their old, suspended driver license, DPS would do well to take their list and do an address update with the Post Office so fewer people will miss the notifications.

For those with defaulted surcharges who aren't eligible for Amnesty and still can't afford to pay, I would suggest applying for an occupational license: An appellate court recently ruled that drivers whose licenses are suspended over surcharges are eligible for occupational drivers licenses.

On the indigence program, it's worth noting that beginning in September 2011, the law requires judges to waive surcharges entirely for indigent defendants with incomes below 125%. Once that provision kicks in, there will be an inequity that could and should easily be rectified by waiving surcharges for indigents under DPS rules, just like the courts will be doing. That would require an additional rule change, but otherwise one suspects people will prefer to petition the courts to waive the surcharge instead of pay $250 under DPS rules.

In addition to amnesty and indigence programs, the Public Safety Commission also approved an "incentive" program for people who are current on their surcharges, but it hasn't yet been scheduled for implementation. I'd like to see the commission move forward with the incentive program after they've rolled out the new indigency provisions, to dispel the perception that DPS is punishing those who play by the rules. Perhaps the Legislature should simply require implementation of the incentive program, if it doesn't abolish the DRP altogether.

Finally, legislation has been filed to abolish the Driver Responsibility Program and a federal lawsuit filed last year seeks to have the surcharges declared unconstitutional. If either of those efforts succeed, amnesty for those who've defaulted in the past should be applied comprehensively, not just to older cases, and defaulted surcharges should simply be waived rather than try to pick up the pieces of this failed revenue scheme. Indeed, if the courts declare the surcharge unconstitutional, one wonders if the state might end up having to pay back all the surcharge money collected since 2004? That would be quite the comeuppance. Time will tell.


Prison Doc said...

I think your assessment is right on the money, especially the endemic asshole-ism reflected in the 2008 cutoff date. But at least there seems to be hope.

Indeed the best outcome would be to abolish the program entirely, declare such actions unconstitutional, and force the refunding of all moneys previously paid, with interest.

Anonymous said...

WOW!!! So let me see if I got this straight... I can limit my production and my employer decide to lay me off, and in this economy and for what I do (Oilfield Tech.) probably wouldn't be able to get another job for quite some time. So then I could round up enough aluminum cans and such to get a cheap fifth of whiskey and a little gas for my car and the party is ON! And all I have to worry about with this stupid surcharge is $250.00... But if I continue to be a productive member of society and maybe get pulled over after watching the game at a friends house and blowing a .09 Then I have to pay thousands because I have money??? This entire program is total BULLS**T... Goes along the same lines when you were in school sports. The fat kid wasn't picked because it was known he couldn't play the game. The athletic kid was... See where I'm going with this?!?!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

1:32, the Amnesty only applies to defaults before 12/31/08; it's actually not the case that you could do what you describe. And of course there are still substantial criminal penalties for DWI.

That said, I agree the "entire program is total BULLS**T." Be sure to call your state rep and senator (if you don't know who they are, go here) and ask them to support repealing it. You might even suggest they sign on as joint authors to Leo Berman's HB 299, which would abolish the program outright.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you Grits! You worked hard on this one and it is appreciated! We will send you a donation in celebration and I hope lots of others will do the same! You rock!

Zeety said...

Figures. This comes about 20 years too late for me. I already caused all the drunken mayhem and chaos I could for one life time. Sorry Texas. If I ever come back I'll be sure to drive within the posted speed limit and in the slow lane. Can't promise anything about the blinkers though, that's your collective fault for not supporting early intervention Alzheimer treatment. Suck it Tea Baggers.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your write-up! I've been trying to find information on this for months, and yours is the first one that has been intelligible.

I fall inside the Amnesty period, so I'm really thrilled. I was 18 when I was pulled over without my insurance card, and I fell behind on surcharge payments while I was out of state for college. I haven't driven in over three years, as my license was suspended. This has been a huge black cloud over my life for the last 5 years. The program is absolutely ridiculous, and I get a bitter sort of satisfaction knowing it is failing.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart for writting this and keeping up with this topic.

This surcharge has been plauging my life for nearly 7 years. I happened to randomly search for anything regarding the drp while laying in bed just now because I couldn't sleep. I had no clue about any of this amnesty program. I have been trapped without a license for so long feeling helpless/worthless that I had lost all hope.

I was nearly brought to tears, trying hard not to wake up my girlfriend who is sleeping next to me (we both have work in the morning) as the following text sat in front of me.

"Texas DPS Driver Responsibility Amnesty Program
Your accounts are eligible for the Amnesty Program and have been placed in the Amnesty Program.

Your reduced amount due is: 0.00

The due date for the reduced payment amount is: 04/17/2011

The surcharge suspensions will be cleared on your driving record and the reduced balance owed under Amnesty will be updated in the online systems within 3 business days. Please check back for the updated balances to appear in the system before making payments. A letter will be sent to the address on your most recent surcharge account confirming the reduced amount due and due date for payment of the reduced amount.

Note: Amnesty does NOT include accounts assessed after 1/15/2011. These accounts are still due at the assessed amount on their original due dates."

I urge everyone suffering and bullied from the states greed to go to and check your eligibility.

I can't even begin to describe how I'm feeling right now. This really seems too good to be true.

Thank you so much for all of the information and help.

P.s. My name is Mike. Sorry for posting anon. Its almost 4am and I'm on my phone.

Anonymous said...

After having researched this subject, I find that I only fall within the group of those that are "being punished for playing by the rules".

My surcharges began in 2009. I defaulted twice, once in '09 and again in '10, resulting in DL suspension and reinstatement both times. I have struggled to play by the rules and am now current with my first two years of surcharges, totaling $2080.00 paid in full. Now, I have one more year to go (another $1040.00) which will be another struggle to pay but I will pay in order to keep my DL current and clear.

As I see it, there is no help for me because of the 2008 cutoff date. I don't fall under amnesty and indigency rules, I don't even get a pat on the back or an "attaboy" for paying up and playing by the rules, which has been a major struggle to say the least.

The deadbeats that have not or cannot pay their surcharges are being rewarded with reduced amounts, but since I am currently in compliance with mine, I am being told to continue to pay up another $1040.00, which I will struggle to do in order to keep my DL. What's wrong with this picture?

I fully support the idea of ruling this colossal failure (the DRP) unconstitutional, abolishing the program altogether and refunding all surcharges previously paid, plus interest.

Anonymous said...

Thank You Grits for your hard work in this area. I was eligible for the Amnesty Program and have been placed in the Amnesty Program on Monday morning, today I spoke with DPS and they had already lifted the suspension and mailing my license in three weeks. Thank You again

Anonymous said...

Not everyone who owes surcharges to the state is a DRUNK!! I myself have 3,000 dollars in surcharges simply because I made a mistake. I had a habit of not carrying my insurance or license on me when I was stopped. One time it was during a road block and the other two times it was because my license plate light was out. I should have gone to court to prove that I was an insured and licensed driver, but I didn't. I can't afford the 3,000 dollars and I had already paid the tickets. I am glad that I can get the help that I need because I haven't been able to drive for 2 years now.

So before you assume that the state is helping a bunch of DRUNKS then maybe think that most of us are just average people who have learned from our stupidity.

Anonymous said...

I have had my surcharges for almost eight years now and after going up and down on being able to pay, I just had $1215.00 wiped off and my license reinstated. I was actually planning on just paying them off at once until I heard about this program. I did some research and applied. Two days later, they told me I owe nothing. Now I am reading even more information about it and seeing that legislation is trying to call it unconstitutional. Finally this black cloud is off the top of my head and I can get back to driving a truck which is why I got a CDL in 2002. Hope everything goes right and the state has to repay all that money to everyone because it was just a money making scam from the start. Who thought a no insurance ticket would end up costing $2000.00 My name is Gary from Lindale Tx. Good luck to everyone who got bent over like I did.

Anonymous said...

Here it is May 2011 and after years of delay after delay - the Indigency Program is still NOT available. MSB reps cannot say why it is not rolled out yet or when it will be. Who can (or will)give a straight answer on when they will really implement.

Anonymous said...

I was convicted in March 2010 and paid the full surcharge for the year 2010. Now I'm faced with another $1,000 surcharge for yr 2011. I am unemployed and have been for the past 2 yrs. It's really been hard trying to make ends meet. What about this indigent program? I know I should qualify?

Daniel Montes said...

Chapter 708 is unconstitutional. I have file a motion to declare it so in Texas criminal court. Further, an order to refund every dollar collcted since it began. Track this case from JP all the way to the US Supreme Court, State of Texas vs Daniel Montes, Jr. Initial case before Judge Valencia Nash Dallas County JP 1-2. Next court will be Dallas County Criminal Court, then the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals then jumps to the US Supreme Court. The motion has been filed, Dallas Co Da and Texas Solicitor General have been given notice. I know that Virginia's surcharge program has been declared unconstitutional, a pending federal case in the Western District of Texas has been filed challenging Texas' Chapter 708, and the Texas Legislature has a bill to repeal the chapter. I'm not waiting. I plan to gut the chapter from inside the criminal court route. I appreciate any support, because it affects every driver on Texas Roads. I will post hearing dates so we can have a party at the courthouse. Thank you, /s/ Daniel Montes, Jr. 469-563-8998,

Daniel Montes said...

I have a pending motion to declare CH 708 Unconstitutional
before Judge Nash, Dallas County JP1-2 in Lancaster Texas.
Its State of Texas v Daniel Montes, Jr. I have found four
basic legal flaws in CH 708 that are clearly
unconstitutional under the state and US Const. The recent
legal challenges follow the double jeopardy reasoning, but
fail. I know four legal arguments that will blow it out of
the water. Be advised that I have included in the proposed
order for the State to reimburse every dollar that was
collected at 18% APR interest, reinstate every suspended
DL, declare CH708 unconstitutional, and hold the state and
its agents in contempt if it continues to enforce the
statute. You say JP does not have the authority to rule on
the motion. It actually does. Its a court of law. It can
deny my motion then I file an interlocutory appeal to the
Dallas County Court. It for sure can rule on it. If not
will do a writ of mandamus to the TX Court of Criminal
Appeals. If they drop the ball then a writ of cert US Sup
Ct. Ok, you want to know the four legal arguments. Its
easy. One, Tx Congress prohibited from delegating its
taxing authority to the TxDPS and or MSB. Two Tx Congress
prohibited from enacting any local, special or private law
for the assessment or collection of taxes. Three and Four
are long shots based on violations of the US Const. I
welcome any friends of the court supporting briefs. Please
file them now. I have given the Dallas DA and TX
Soliticitor General written notice of the motion. They will
respond. Come get in on the action. We can argue it in
Austin or maybe in DC. I will post the hearing date so you
can attend. Please get the word out. I am trying for
everyone who has been burned. Will get your money back. I
Need your support. By you attending the hearings will show
the judge that this is a hot topic that needs to be
addressed. Thankyou. Daniel Montes, Jr., 469-563-8998 cell,

Daniel Montes said...

State of Texas v Daniel Montes, Jr, hearing set for July 25th at 9a before Judge Valencia Nash Dallas County JP1-2, on motion to declare Chapter 708 of Texas Transportation Code unconstitutional. All are welcome to attend to show support of the motion. If you have any questions to call me at 469-563-8998 cell. Thank you. Daniel Montes, Jr.

Daniel Montes said...

Case now before the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas. Please file your friend of the court briefs in support of motion to declare Ch 708 unconstitutional. I got it before the high court pro se. Help me finish off the statute. Daniel Montes 469-563-8998.

Daniel Montes said...

Flash traffic. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas has accepted the case and will consider my motion. Writ No. WR-76,215-01. I ask all interested Tx lic attys, law professors, civil rights groups, etc to file their friend of the court briefs in support of relators motion to declare ch 708 of tx trans code unconstitutional. We got the Tx high court's attention now. Help me shut this ch 708 down, make the state refund every dollar with interest and reinstate all DLs suspended under ch 708. We don't need congress to repeal and wait for any federal court to intervene. This motion before a Texas high court to review a Texas statute. Its perfect.

Any questions?

Daniel Montes
469-563-8998 cell

Jashua M Davies said...

I have not had a DL in SIX YEARS because of these BS surcharges! notice how they are not fines or fees that can be time served or community service. Notice how there was no appeal to any judge in the DPS system. Pay to play. Well, I got my ass on a bicycle and buses and I am better off for it. They will not get a cent from me... three pull-overs on the way to work in 3 months resulted in 9 DPS surcharges, 3 per police stop. Incredible. $6500 owed in surcharges after I paid all the tickets. Lost my DL, sold my car. Lost jobs, lost relationships over not wanting to spend between $200 and $300 a month FOR THREE YEARS just for a DL. Of course, when I finally get my income up enough to face the bill, recession be damned... it is now nearly September 2011. I had never heard of the amnesty program and was not looking for it between january and now. So now, will I have to pay for surcharges from back in 2004?! the officers who wrote me tickets for no insurance expired inspection and registration knew where I lived and would catch me goingto work... making $6.50 an hour less than 30 hours a week, trying to pay off the car and rent, pay off all 9 tickets and only to find out surcharges were still owed. The law says officer has to impound vehicle and arrest on second offense... so why did they continue to write e tickets and not explain the surcharge? I would have parked the car and rode the bus after the first surcharge!!! angry to missed the amnesty, better believe I will fight to get this cleared as of Sept 1 2011. Thanks for this info.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Davies, If the Court declares the statute unconstitutional, then all drivers licenses suspended under the program to be reinstated and all money collected refunded with interest. Keep all your papers, receipts etc from the court and surcharge program. Hopefully, that would help you get back on your feet. Daniel.