As of September 2019, the “surcharge” program by Texas DPS no longer exists. While that may sound good, it has been replaced by a “superfine” system for DWI convictions. Put another way, the “surcharge” for DWI convictions still exists, while the “points” system for things like traffic tickets is history. Let’s take a quick look at what is new, and what is not (at least in terms of DWI).
Surcharge v. Superfine
Old System – Surcharge
The surcharge system issued a fine based on either “points” or convictions. Regardless, putting “points” on a person’s license only happens after a conviction. The old system said that a “conviction” is a “final conviction” regardless of whether the conviction resulted in jail time or probation. In terms of the surcharge for a DWI conviction, the old system said this:
- Each year the department shall assess a surcharge on the license of each person who, during the preceding 36-month period, has been finally convicted of [a DWI offense]
- The amount of the surcharge . . . is $1,000 per year, except the surcharge is:
- $1,500 per year for a second or subsequent conviction within 36 months; and
- $2,000 for a first or subsequent conviction if it is shown [that the persons BAC] was .16 or more at the time of analysis.
- A surcharge under this section for the same conviction may not be assessed in more than three years.
New System – Superfine
Unlike the old statute, the new superfine system does not clarify what “finally convicted” means. Most attorneys agree that a “final conviction” means only jail time, but courts issue the superfine even when placing a person on probation. The superfine system also allows the court to waive the superfine for indigent persons (and explains what documentation that can be used as proof).
The DWI “superfine” is as follows:
- $3,000 for the first conviction within a 36-month period;
- $4,500 for a second or subsequent conviction within a 36-month period; and
- $6,000 for a first or subsequent 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 .15 or more at the time of analysis.
Doing the math, the superfine is EXACTLY THE SAME as the old surcharge, just worded differently (and lowering the larger fine to .15 instead of .16 BAC).
Fighting back against Surcharges
Back when the surcharge program still existed, Mimi fought tooth-and-nail against the system as being unconstitutional. She even went so far as to sue Texas DPS in Federal court claiming the surcharge system was a violation of double jeopardy and constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Unfortunately, the Federal Court threw the case out. However, this did not stop Mimi from continuing to fight. Mimi even spoke in front of the Texas Legislature, asking them to repeal the surcharge system.