Changes in Texas DWI Fines

Happy Friday, everybody today in this week’s video, I wanted to talk to you about some changes in the law regarding fines for DWI cases in Texas. Now it used to be the Texas had this thing called the driver’s responsibility program. And what that meant was whenever you had a DWI or where you were convicted of a DWI, there would be an annual surcharge that would be applied to your driver’s license. It’s an administrative charge that the DPS would charge you usually around a thousand dollars per year to get your driver’s license after a DWI conviction. The changes in the law that occurred in September of last year eliminated that. That’s no longer a thing anymore. Those surcharges are gone. What that means is if you had a DWI in the past three years and you still owed some of those surcharges, those are no longer on your record as you owing them.

It also means that if your driver’s license was suspended because you failed to pay those surcharges, your license is now eligible to be reinstated because they’re doing away with that program. It’s important you talk to a lawyer about what that may mean for you, but the important bit, the change in the law came in Texas Transportation code 709.001. And I’ll put a link to it down here so you can see it and look it up if you’re a masochist like me and like reading law. What this statute says is that now, if you’re convicted of a DWI in Texas, a regular run of the mill class B misdemeanor DWI, there is a mandatory fine of $3,000 that you’ll be obligated to pay. Now note that’s on top of any other additional fine or court costs that the district attorney or the County court orders that you pay as part of a plea agreement, it’s an additional fine of $3,000.

If the DWI involved an accident of any kind, whether you hit another vehicle, you hit a parked object, anything like that, there is a fine of $4,500 that applies. And if even on a first offense, you have a blood alcohol concentration of .15 or higher, it’s a class A misdemeanor DWI. Then the fine is $6,000. That’s a massive, massive, fine. Now here’s why this issue gets interesting. There is a discrepancy between a bunch of judges in this area on what exactly that statute means. Because the way the law reads is that fine is implemented once there is a final conviction of the DWI on your record. Some judges have interpreted that to mean that when somebody pleads guilty, regardless of if they’re getting jail time or probation, that fine applies. Some other judges believe that that only means a jail time plea, because if the sentence was probated, they’re interpreting that to mean not a final conviction on your record.

This has been settled yet by any higher levels or higher courts of appeal, different district attorney’s office are handling this differently. For example, the Hood County District Attorney’s association is saying that they are siding with the judges that say, if the sentence is probated, then that fine does not apply. I’ve yet to see what Collin County and Denton County are going to do with this super fine, but as an interesting hot button issue, that’s going on right now. If you or anybody you know, either has a pending DWI or has had one recently, and you want to know how this new law may affect them. Please give my office a call. I’m happy to walk you through what I know what I don’t know.

Unfortunately, I’ll have a whole lot more questions than answers right now because this is an unsettled area of law, but it’s something that we’re diligently keeping our eye on and something you should be as well if you handle any type of DWI cases. As always, if you have any questions about this or anything else that you’ve seen, always feel free to reach out to me. I’m happy to talk to you either by email or phone and answer any questions that you might have. Hope y’all have a good weekend and we’ll see you next week.

Author Bio

James P. Whalen

James P. Whalen is the managing attorney and founder of Whalen Law Office, a Texas criminal defense firm offering personalized legal representation for various federal criminal charges. With a commitment to providing comfort and guidance during challenging times, Mr. Whalen serves as both an attorney and counselor to his clients, helping them navigate their cases while striving to restore normalcy to their lives.

In an inherently unbalanced criminal justice system, Mr. Whalen takes on cases with unwavering dedication. With decades of legal experience, he offers representation across various criminal charges, including white-collar crimes, violent crimes, drug charges, and more. Mr. Whalen’s numerous accolades, including Super Lawyer recognition and board certification in Criminal Appellate Law and Criminal Law, reflect his unwavering commitment to ethical and high-quality legal representation.

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