Lawsuit Seeks to End Controversial 'Driver Responsibility Program'

A lawsuit has been filed asking a judge to overturn the controversial 'Driver Responsibility Program,' News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

The program, which has been in place since 2003, slaps large 'surcharges,' or 'civil fees' on top of the fines charged to drivers who commit a wide variety of traffic offenses, from not having insurance to drunk driving to reckless driving.  

In some cases, the fees are massive, up to $1,000 a year for three years, and often come in the form of a letter from the state weeks or even months after the driver has paid the criminal fine and has moved on.

"The problem is that there are millions of people in Texas who don't have the money to pay that fine," attorney Brian McGiverin of the Austin Community Law Center, which filed the lawsuit, tells News Radio 1200 WOAI.  "When they can't do that, the State of Texas suspends their license and doesn't allow them to renew it until they pay that fine."

He says that essentially criminally punishes a person for being poor.

"That's the part that is unconstitutional.  It is not Constitutional to punish someone because they are too poor to pay a fine, and then to take away their ability to support themselves and support their families."

A bill has been filed in the 2019 session of the Texas Legislature to repeal the Driver Responsibility Program.  In fact, several efforts have been made over the years to repeal the program.

They have failed because the money raised through the 'surcharges,' goes to hospital trauma units, and if the DRP were repealed, lawmakers would have to find millions of dollars to pay for badly needed trauma care from some other place.

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