Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Still few judicial waivers for indigence on Driver Responsibility surcharge

Recently Grits was surprised when commenters said judges had been using their authority to waive Driver Responsibility surcharges for indigence more frequently than in the past. DPS has an administrative indigence program, which I knew is used much more often, but I hadn't heard that judges had become more active waiving surcharges. So, Grits filed an open records request with DPS to discover how often judges are using that authority. The answer: more, but still not a lot.

Here are the totals since the law took effect in FY 2013:
2013: 1,312
2014: 2,313
2015: 2,598
2016: 1,527 (to date)
Last year's total doubled  the number in FY 2013, but that's still a small figure (about 0.4 percent) compared to the 681,000+ people against whom surcharges were assessed in 2015.

So that strategy didn't work as well as we hoped. But that's still more than 7,600 people relieved of their surcharge burden, with tens of thousands more indigent drivers eliminating their surcharges through the administrative program.


Anonymous said...

It has taken me about 8 years to become a legal driver again – and it wasn’t easy! The judges I came in contact with said they were powerless to do anything about the surcharges -- funny now, a judge admitting to being powerless! One of the things that hurt me the most was not being able to change the address on my license. I think the policy may have changed by now, but at the time, the only option I had was to change it in person, which I wasn’t about to do because I had an outstanding warrant for a ticket and had no desire to go to jail. I finally got that paid off and then the thousands in surcharges. I couldn’t get a valid ID until I paid what I owed and actually had my employment terminated because of the status of my license. It’s hard to live, much less save money to pay surcharges, when you can’t get and keep decent employment. The surcharges are devastating beyond the money owed. They are a snowballing effect to poverty. I personally hope everyone associated with the surcharge program goes straight to hell. And wouldn’t you think, after 13 years, if anyone were serious about eliminating the program, it would have been done? And what is up with the amnesty that DPS has been promising since 2012? What a bunch of liars. One good thing about not driving is you don’t have to worry about being pulled over and dealing with nosy law enforcement officers. If I happen to get pulled over, may I keep my doors locked and windows up? I don’t want to appear unfriendly, but I don’t have any reason to trust the police anymore.


Again, the Williamson County Court at Law judges routinely sign waivers of surcharges for indigent clients.
What really needs to be addressed is the mandatory driver's license suspension for conviction of a possession of marijuana charge, regardless of amount.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4/06/2016 02:05:00 AM,
Despite wishful thinking by Grits and others, I think the very best that can be hoped for regarding the surcharge program in the foreseeable future is minor modifications. Those in charge of the state, elected or appointed, seem devout believers in the program, knowing full well where the burdens fall. They speak about it much more freely when they feel they are in a safe audience of like minded people, in ways that would probably cause your head to explode if you heard what they think about those caught under the program's guidelines.

As far as getting stopped by police, if you get pulled over you make a conscious decision on how to handle your side of the equation but you do not control the other side. If you roll up the windows and lock your doors to prevent any contact with them, I suspect you will have a worse time than if you follow the societal expectations of handing your license and other documents with minimal chatter. You'll have to interact with them on some level or find out policies allow them to more forcefully engage you but that doesn't mean you have to be openly friendly either.

The Old Skool Preacher said...

It is more problematic for a formally incarcerate person who needs a job, food, and shelter to rejoin the human race after coming out of this mass incarceration from this war on drug. God Help!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@9:36, there's never been a horse that can't be rode, never been a cowboy can't be throwed. There's a better chance of getting rid of it or achieving major rollbacks in 2017 than at any time since the program began thanks to Tea Party support in the senate.

@8:38, I didn't say it never happened, and it doesn't surprise me that judges officing near Edna Staudt are giving the waivers. But the data from DPS show the practice is not widespread among judges.

Anonymous said...

I suspect the issue some judges are running in to is that, if they find someone indigent for the surcharges, then that person is also indigent when it comes to paying fines, court costs, probation fees, and restitution. That could potentially open a whole different bag of worms.

Anonymous said...

2:05AM I couldn’t get a valid ID until I paid what I owed and actually had my employment terminated because of the status of my license.

They make TX Identification (ID) cards.

Anonymous said...

6:13PM, you need specific photo id to get one, usually that's a drivers license.

Anonymous said...

Texas DPS issues both driver licenses and ID cards.

The threshold to obtain a TX ID card is very low...so low that a 2yr old can obtain an ID card if their parent so desires.

Anonymous said...

anon 9:54. You are technically correct all uou need is a state issued birth certificate. A lot of people don't have that, and you need a drivers license (most common) to obtain the birth certificate.

Anonymous said...

To get an ID card, you would still have to go to DPS, and with a warrant out, they would arrest, whether you were there to get a driver's license or an ID card.

Ryan Kellus Turner said...

You would think that if a municipal judge or JP finds a defendant indigent in a criminal proceeding that the defendant would be able to hand that same written determination with the court's seal to DPS and it would be that simple. Of course, it's not because of DPS's standard operating procedures which precludes accepting court documents from defendant's (even those under seal.) Ryan Kellus Turner