What happens if I can't afford to pay my surcharges?

Many people are surprised to learn that additional fees are imposed on drivers who commit certain offenses, or have their licenses suspended. The fees are in addition to any fines or punishment that is imposed. These are called surcharges, and generally are $1,000 per year.

It took a while for the legislature to recognize what everyone told them at the beginning - a lot of people can't afford the surcharges. If they can't pay the surcharge, they can't keep their license. Many have to drive to make a living, and they are going to do it whether they have a license or not. The result is that you have a lot of unlicensed - and uninsured - drivers running around.

The legislature has finally recognized that there needs to be a way to provide some relief for people who simply cannot pay the surcharges. They authorized the creation of an amnesty program as well as an indigency program. The amnesty program was aimed at individuals who were in default on payment of their surcharges. DPS was authorized to reduce the surcharges to 10% of the total amount in default, not to exceed $250.00. You can also get your license back while you are making payments.

What if a surcharge is imposed and you can't afford to pay it? The Indigency Program allows the amount to be reduced to 10% of the amount due, not to exceed $250. You are eligible if you are at or below 125% of the federal poverty level. Those amounts can be found here. This is the table for 2018 according to the US Department of Health and Human Services:

2018 POVERTY GUIDELINES FOR THE 48 CONTIGUOUS STATES
AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Persons in family/household Poverty guideline
For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $4,320 for each additional person.
1 $12,140
2 16,460
3 20,780
4 25,100
5 29,420
6 33,740
7 38,060
8 42,380
 

You apply for the Indigency Program by filing a sworn affidavit. You can find the application form at https://www.txsurchargeonline.com/Indigence.aspx. Simply download the form, sign it before a notary public, and send it in along with the supporting documents. According to DPS, decisions are usually made within 14 days.

If you qualify, make sure you take advantage of this program. Instead of having to pay $1000 you can get by with only paying $100.00. That's definitely too good to pass up.

Walter Reaves
Criminal Defense Attorney Walter Reaves has been practicing law for over 35 years.