Q: What are surcharges?
A: Surcharges are fees that you must pay to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) if you are convicted of DWI.
Q: Is DWI probation a conviction?
Q: How much are the surcharges?
A: $1000 per year for three years (total = $3000). DPS will pro-rate the amount, which means that you can pay approximately $90/month ($3000 divided by 36 months).
Q: What happens if I don’t pay? What if I decide not to drive for the next three years? Will the surcharge ever go away?
A: If you don’t pay the surcharge, DPS will suspend your driver’s license. The surcharge never goes away. You can’t just wait it out. Your license will be suspended until you pay.
Q: I don’t live in Texas. Does it matter if I pay the surcharge?
A: Sometimes other states will suspend your out-of-state license because you owe Texas surcharges. I’d keep checking with your state to see if they do this.
Q: Can you get the surcharges waived?
A: We try. The judge can waive the surcharge if we prove that you are “indigent.”
Q: How do we do that?
A: We need to show the judge that you make less than 125% of the federal poverty rate. This is roughly $15k/year if you are the only member of the household, or $25k/year if there are two members, $30k for three, $35k for four, etc.
Q: How do we show that?
A: Documents. Bring them to court. The best document to bring is your most recent IRS Form 1040. Other helpful documents include SSI benefits statements, medicaid benefits statements, recent bank statements (if they show you don’t have much money), proof of housing assistance, proof of veterans benefits, proof that you have dependents, and recent pay stubs.
Q: What if I make more than the minimum?
A: Bring proof that you have debts. School loans, hospital bills, dependents, etc.
Q: Will the judge waive the surcharge if I bring all that stuff?
A: I don’t know. It depends on what the numbers say about your net worth and ability to earn enough money to pay the surcharge.
Q: Can’t I just tell the judge about my financial situation?
A: Sure. But without documents to prove what you are saying, it is likely the judge will say, “Sorry, I need proof.”
Q: What if I can’t find those documents?
A: Just bring as many as you can.
Q: When do I need to have them?
A: If/when we plea to the DWI in front of the judge.
Q: What if I find those documents later?
A: You can apply for a waiver (or to reduce the amount) directly to DPS. However, DPS will be less sympathetic than the judge. The judge is your best chance of getting them waived.
Q: Will you look at the documents I have and see if they will be enough to convince the judge?
A: Yes. E-mail them to us. However, we can never be 100% certain what a judge will say. We’ll be more like 95% certain.
Q: If the judge waives the surcharges, who tells DPS?
A: The clerk will notify DPS that the surcharges were waived. However, sometimes DPS mails you a surcharge bill anyway. Don’t worry, DPS eventually figures out that you don’t owe anything and will mail you another letter saying you are good. We will give you a copy of the waiver that you can mail to DPS if you want to.
Q: What if my DWI case is reduced to Obstruction of a Highway or Class C ticket?
A: There will be no surcharges.