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New DWI Bill #4- HB 3733

A new House Bill proposed by Representative Coleman affects the surcharges assessed on those convicted of DWI.  Right now, if you are convicted of DWI first, you owe the state $3,000 over 3 years just to keep your driving privledges.

The bill seems to say that the 3,000 is now a maximum surcharge, instead of it being the automatic surcharge.  It would be based now on the "seriousness of the charge, the amount necessary to deter future violations, and an amount that maximizes collection."

I like the idea of this, except it doesnt seem to really say who determines how much the amount is, and why!  Nor does it seem to give you any kind of due process, like a hearing to present to a judge or magistrate why you think your surcharge should be less.  Basically it seems like a proposal with no teeth.

The bill also makes some changes to the plea bargaining process. It provides that anyone pleaing guilty must be given notice about the surcharge.  I like this idea, but it is mostly for people who are hiring non-DWI lawyers.  Any DWI lawyer worth their salt is going to be informing their clients about the surcharge.  At our firm, we speak about it during the initial consultation along with paperwork about the potential surcharge.  And in any plea of guilty or not guilty, we ALWAYS discuss the ramifications of the potential surcharge.

Below is the entire text of the bill:

A BILL TO BE ENTITLED

AN ACT

relating to the administration of the driver responsibility program.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:

SECTION 1.  Subchapter A, Chapter 708, Transportation Code, is amended by adding Section 708.004 to read as follows:

Sec. 708.004.  DEPARTMENT’S DETERMINATION OF AMOUNT OF SURCHARGE. The department by rule shall set the amount of a surcharge to be assessed under this chapter on a person’s license. The amount may not exceed the maximum amount allowed by this chapter for a surcharge based on points or a conviction, as applicable. The amount shall be based on:

(1)  the seriousness of the violation, including the nature, circumstances, extent, and gravity of the violation;

(2)  the amount necessary to deter a future violation; and

(3)  the amount that maximizes the collection of surcharges by the department.

SECTION 2.  Section 708.054, Transportation Code, is amended to read as follows:

Sec. 708.054.  AMOUNT OF POINTS SURCHARGE.  The amount of a surcharge under this chapter may not exceed [is] $100 for the first six points and may not exceed $25 for each additional point.

SECTION 3.  Section 708.102(c), Transportation Code, is amended to read as follows:

(c)  The amount of a surcharge under this section may not exceed [is] $1,000 per year, except that the amount of the surcharge may not exceed [is]:

(1)  $1,500 per year for a second or subsequent conviction within a 36-month period; and

(2)  $2,000 for a first or subsequent conviction if it is shown on the trial of the offense that an analysis of a specimen of the person’s blood, breath, or urine showed an alcohol concentration level of 0.16 or more at the time the analysis was performed.

SECTION 4.  Section 708.103(b), Transportation Code, is amended to read as follows:

(b)  The amount of a surcharge under this section may not exceed [is] $250 per year.

SECTION 5.  Section 708.104(b), Transportation Code, is amended to read as follows:

(b)  The amount of a surcharge under this section may not exceed [is] $100 per year.

SECTION 6.  Section 708.105, Transportation Code, is amended by adding Subsections (c) and (d) to read as follows:

(c)  Before accepting a plea other than a plea under Article 27.14(d), Code of Criminal Procedure, the court must provide a defendant charged with an offense described by Section 708.102, 708.103, or 708.104 the following statement and require the defendant to sign the statement:

"A conviction for the offense charged will result in the assessment of a surcharge that will be imposed annually for a period of 36 months under the Driver Responsibility Program."

(d)  The statement provided to a defendant under Subsection (c) must also state the maximum amount of the annual surcharge as provided by Section 708.102, 708.103, or 708.104. The copy of the statement signed by the defendant shall be retained by the court.

SECTION 7.  Section 708.157, Transportation Code, is amended by amending Subsection (c) and adding Subsection (d) to read as follows:

(c)  The department by rule shall [may] establish an indigency program to reduce the surcharge on a person’s license if the department determines that the person is indigent [for holders of a driver’s license on which a surcharge has been assessed for certain offenses, as determined by the department]. The department shall require a person to submit proof of indigency.

(d)  For purposes of this section, a person is indigent if the person’s income is not more than 100 percent of the applicable income level established by the federal poverty guidelines.

SECTION 8.  (a) Not later than October 1, 2010, the Department of Public Safety shall adopt initial rules determining the amount of a surcharge on a person’s driver’s license under Chapter 708, Transportation Code, as amended by this Act. Not later than October 1 of each subsequent year, the Department of Public Safety shall review its rules and determine whether the amount of a surcharge should be increased or decreased.

(b)  A surcharge imposed under Chapter 708, Transportation Code, before the effective dat
e of the initial rules adopted by the Department of Public Safety under Subsection (a) of this section is governed by that chapter as it existed on the date the surcharge was imposed, and the former law is continued in effect for that purpose.

SECTION 9.  This Act takes effect September 1, 2009.

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