Surcharges: the hidden fees no one tells you about.

If you have paid the fine on your traffic ticket, you may think that you have no further financial obligation in the matter.  Think again!  Your financial obligation may have only just begun…

When you are charged with a traffic ticket offense, it is possible to simply “pay the fine.”  Many jurisdictions make this process very easy, and even include a schedule of fines with the ticket that the police officer gives you.  Many people believe that they can mail the fine amount to the court, and they are thereby relieved of any further fees with respect to the ticket.  However, this assumption is incorrect.  When you pay the fine, you are required to plead either “guilty” or “no contest” to the charge.  In so doing, you waive your rights with respect to the case, and, if the case is a “moving violation” (e.g., speeding, improper lane change, running a stop sign, etc.), the charge appears on your driving record and can affect your insurance premiums.

Furthermore, under the Texas Transportation Code, the Texas Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) assesses a surcharge against you if you are convicted of certain traffic offenses.  DPS assigns “points” for each moving violation for which you are convicted.  Points are assigned for each moving violation.  If you are convicted of a moving violation, you receive two points against your drivers license.  If the moving violation of which you are convicted arose as the result of an accident, you receive three points.  If you accumulate six or more points in a three year period, you must pay a surcharge to the Department of Public Safety.  If you fail to do so, your drivers license may be suspended.  If your license is already suspended, you will not be able to renew it until you pay the surcharge.  In addition to the “point system,” you are also legally obligated to pay surcharges if you are convicted of certain traffic offenses (i.e., irrespective of how many points you may have). Surcharge offenses include “no drivers license,” “no insurance” (also know as “failure to maintain financial responsibility” or “FMFR”) “driving while license suspended,” and D.W.I.

Once a surcharge is assessed, the Texas Department of Public Safety collects it over a three year period.  For example, if you are convicted of a “no insurance violation” (also known as “FMFR” or “failure to maintain financial responsibility), a $750 surcharge is levied.  By law, you are required to make annual payments of $250 over the next three years!  Other surcharge fees are as follows:

1. “no drivers license”- $300

2. “driving while license suspended”- $750

3. accumulation of 6 points- $300

4. each additional point- $75

The Texas Department of Public Safety will assess a yearly “surcharge” (for up to three years) on the drivers license of anyone who has been convicted of DWI within the preceding thirty-six months. The amount of the surchage is as follows:

1. $1000 per year- if no prior DWI convictions in the preceding thirty-six months, and provided that an alcohol concentration level of less than 0.16 is not proved at trial.

2. $1500 per year- if there has been a DWI conviction within the preceding thirty-six months.

3. $2000 per year- if proved at trial that an alcohol concentration of 0.16 or greater existed at the time that the analysis was performed.