Hundreds of thousands of Texans who have penalties on their driving record are being offered a one-time amnesty on surcharges from the state.
If you qualify, it could save you thousands.
Newschannel 6 Lindsey Rogers also found out it will hopefully prompt more people to get their license reinstated and get auto insurance.
Texans whose driver licenses have been suspended for failing to pay state-mandated surcharges are urged to take advantage of a one-time payment amnesty.
The surcharges come from the Driver Responsibility Program.
The Driver Responsibility Program, which assesses fees for a variety of driving-related offenses, was passed by the Legislature in 2003 and directed the Department to administer the program. Traffic offenses that carry an automatic surcharge for three years, include DWI-related offenses, no insurance, driving while license suspended, driving without a license and point accumulation. (For example, the fee for a first-time DWI offender is $1,000 per year for three years.) The revenue generated by DRP goes to trauma centers, emergency medical services and the general revenue Fund.
Surcharges are in addition to all other reinstatement fees required for other administrative actions and do not replace any administrative suspension, revocation, disqualification or cancellation action that results from these same convictions.
The Texas Department of Public Safety will offer lower payments to individuals who have been suspended and are in default on their surcharges.
Those who qualify for the Amnesty Program will pay 10 percent of the original amount owed for all surcharges combined, for a maximum amount of $250. Service fees will still apply. Any payments already made will be applied to the reduced amount, and if prior payments are more than the reduced amount due, no payment will be required. Prior payments more than the reduced amount due will not be refunded.
"The goal of this is to bring these drivers in compliance so they can have a clear drivers license so they can get insurance," DPS Trooper Tony Fulton said.
The amnesty reduction does not apply to any other fees that you may owe the Department. Only the surcharge is forgiven, service fees and fines must still be paid in full.
Only some drivers qualify and it's only for a limited time.
Those eligible for the Amnesty Program are anyone who had a surcharge assessed between Sept. 30, 2004, and Dec. 31, 2008, and were delinquent on those payments. The surcharges meeting the above criteria must be in default before the amnesty period.
Trooper Fulton said this will help protect you from those who are behind the wheel illegally.
"We have a lot of people who are driving on the road with us every day who have no insurance. By these people being able to get cleared up and get insurance now, hopefully, this program is going to help us have less uninsured drivers out on the road," Trooper Fulton said.
Those who are still making their payments or incurred surcharges after 2008- are still on the hook.
An incentive program is planned for those who have been making payments on time, which would reduce the amount they owe during the second and third years, but no definite timetable has been announced.
Once the online or telephone application is approved, the surcharge suspensions will be cleared on the applicant's driving record within three business days. Applicants will be provided the reduced amount to pay, and they can begin making payments after three business days.
Applicants for the Amnesty Program can pay in full or make payments, but the full amount must be paid by April 17, 2011. If payment in full is not received by April 17, 2011, the reduction is voided and the suspensions are put back on the driving record.
The Department does not have plans to offer another amnesty period.
An Indigency program will be offered after the amnesty period ends in April. The Indigency program will apply to individuals at or below 125 percent of poverty level, using a sworn affidavit; will reduce the amount to 10 percent of total surcharges owed, not to exceed $250; and will rescind suspension for those who receive indigency while payments are being made. Anyone assessed a surcharge since September 30, 2004 will be eligible for the Indigency program.
Lindsey Rogers, Newschannel 6