The great “hidden fee” of DWI convictions, which neither the prosecutor nor the judge will tell you when one of them tries to talk you into pleading guilty without a lawyer, is the $1,000 to $2,000 a year “surcharge” tax you will pay for three years to keep your right to drive. As if the arrest, posting bail, shopping for an attorney, fighting the ALR hearing process, getting an occupation license if you are unsuccessful, and going through the Court process wasn’t enough, our legislature added this tax as one last giant hammer to wack those convicted of DWI (the guilty, the innocent, the underrepresented, and those talked into not having a lawyer) over the head with on the way out the door.
The DWI surcharge law, Transportation Code § 708.102, went into effect on September 1, 2003. It states, in relevant part, that
(b) 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 an offense relating to the operating of a motor vehicle while intoxicated.
(c) The amount of a surcharge under this section is $1,000 per year, except that the amount of the surcharge is (1) $1,500 per year for a second or subsequent conviction within a 36-month period; and
(2) $2,000 for a first or subsequent conviction 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 0.16 or more at the time the analysis was performed.
Thus, if there is no breath test, you are hit with $1,000 a year “extra fee” just for playing the game to their liking. If you submit to a blood or breath test, which is always a bad idea, for incriminating yourself voluntarily (who do you think takes and analyzes those tests?), you get to pay $2,000 a year for three years. The State of Texas profits big off of DWI, and if you can’t pay to play their game, kiss your driver’s license goodbye. Just another reason to hire an attorney and fight back against all criminal charges.