DPS Surcharge Amnesty Program How to Lower Your Surcharges

 

The Beltz Law Firm

214-321-4105

Per the comments in the blog section below, this site has been updated to give you the most recent website link to request and receive amensty for your outstanding surcharges. I want to personally thank everyone who has contributed to the information in this blog. Without your participation and input through the comments below, the following link and information would have come a lot slower than it did. The window for filing is only until April of this year (even though it took them an extra 3 months just to implement the legislation). To fill out the application for amnesty, visit the following site:

 

https://www.txsurchargeonline.com/(S(j33jbx1kpmq4cshk44h5vk1m))/Indigence.aspx

 

DPS as most know now keeps track of every moving violation that goes on your record and assesses points against your driving record for each violation. The more points you get the more exposure you have for license suspensions and penalty fees to keep your license. This has brought about much ire in a State that is already struggling financially to make ends meet. Many of the surcharges go unpaid leaving countless citizens without the ability to drive legally in the State. Because of this backlash the Surcharge program has amended the law for collection of the surcharge fees as outlined below. Please read carefully if you are affected by the surcharge program and are now paying into it to keep your license in good standing with DPS.

§15.163.Amnesty, Incentive and Indigency Programs.

(a) Amnesty program. The department is authorized to provide for a periodic amnesty program under the Driver Responsibility Program, Texas Transportation Code, §708.157(a). Periodic amnesty reductions will be offered at the department’s discretion, and the public will be notified of each amnesty period.

(1) Amnesty will apply to individuals who have been in default for a specified amount of time prior to the announcement of amnesty. The department will determine the amount of time in default for each amnesty period.

(2) To be eligible for the amnesty reduction, each individual will be required to complete an application online at www.txsurchargeonline.com or by telephone at 1-800-688-6882. Each applicant eligible for amnesty will be required to pay 10% of the total amount of surcharges assessed, not to exceed $250.

(3) The total amount is based on all offenses on the driver record at the beginning of each amnesty period, including annual surcharges that have not been assessed for the offenses. If a new offense is reported and a new surcharge assessed after the beginning of the amnesty period, the reduction will not apply to the new surcharge.

(4) Once the department determines the applicant is eligible for amnesty, the department will rescind the suspension of driving privileges for each applicant that receives amnesty.

(5) Payment of the reduced amount must be received by the end of the amnesty period.

(6) A notice will be sent to each applicant receiving amnesty and will provide the last date to pay and the balance due.

(7) If the applicant has made payment(s) prior to approval for the reduced payment, the prior payment(s) will be applied to the reduced payment.

(A) If the prior payment(s) is less than the reduced payment, the driver will be required to pay only the difference.

(B) If prior payment(s) exceeds the reduced payment, the driver will not be required to make a payment. Any prior payments that exceed the reduced payment will not be processed for a refund.

(8) The compensation authorized by Texas Transportation Code, §708.155(c) applies to the reduced payment.

(9) If the reduced payment is received after the end of each amnesty period, the payment will be applied to the oldest outstanding surcharge account(s), and the individual must comply with the original surcharge assessment(s).

(10) An individual will be eligible to receive amnesty only once every three years.

(b) Incentive program. The department is authorized to provide for an incentive program under the Driver Responsibility Program, Texas Transportation Code, §708.157(b). The incentive program is not implemented with the adoption of the rule but will be implemented at the department’s discretion.

(1) The incentive program will consist of two separate programs for reductions. The first program is a one-time reduced payment of all three years of surcharges, and the second program is a reduction of subsequent year(s) of surcharges for maintaining compliance with the prior year(s) surcharge requirement.

(2) For purposes of the incentive program, eligibility is defined as an individual living above 125% of the poverty level as defined annually by the United States Department of Health and Human Services but less than 300% of the poverty level. An individual must meet this definition to be eligible for a reduction. The determination of eligibility will be made by the department or its designee.

(3) Each individual assessed a surcharge may make a one-time payment for all three years of surcharges at a reduced amount to receive full compliance with the surcharge requirement.

(A) To request a reduction of the surcharge under this section, an individual assessed a surcharge must submit the department approved application. The application must be completed in full prior to submission. The application is available online at www.txsurchargeonline.com or may be picked up in person at any driver license office.

(B) The applicant may pay 50% of all three years of surcharges assessed for each offense within 30 days of the date of the surcharge notice to receive full compliance.

(C) The applicant may pay 60% of all three years of surcharges assessed for each offense within 60 days of the date of the surcharge notice to receive full compliance.

(D) The applicant may pay 70% of all three years of surcharges assessed for each offense within 90 days of the date of the surcharge notice to receive full compliance.

(E) The compensation authorized by Texas Transportation Code, §708.155(c) applies to the reduced payment.

(4) Each individual assessed a surcharge may receive a reduction on subsequent surcharge assessments for compliance with the annual surcharge. The reduction will be automatic at the time of the annual review of the surcharge.

(A) If the first year surcharge for each offense is paid in full, the second year surcharge will automatically be reduced by 50% of the annual surcharge amount.

(B) If the second year is paid in full, the third year will automatically be reduced by 75% of the annual surcharge amount.

(C) Each annual surcharge must be paid in full prior to the next annual surcharge to receive the reduction.

(D) The compensation authorized by Texas Transportation Code, §708.155(c) applies to the reduced payment.

(c) Indigency program. The department is required to provide for an indigency program under the Driver Responsibility Program, Texas Transportation Code, §708.157(c).

(1) For purposes of the Driver Responsibility Program, indigency is defined as living at or below 125% of the poverty level as defined annually by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. An individual must meet the definition of indigency to be eligible for a reduction. The determination of indigency will be made by the department or its designee.

(2) To request a reduction of the surcharge under this section, each individual must submit the department approved application. The application must be completed in full and notarized prior to submission. Each applicant eligible for indigency will be required to pay 10% of the total amount of surcharges assessed, not to exceed $250. The application is available online at www.txsurchargeonline.com or may be picked up in person at any driver license office.

(3) The department may contract with a third-party for the verification of the information submitted on the application.

(4) A notice will be sent to each applicant determined eligible for the indigency reduction. The notice will provide the last date to pay and the balance due, and payment of the reduced amount must be received within 180 days from the date of the notice. The indigency period starts on the date of the notice and ends 180 days later.

(5) The total amount is based on all offenses on the driver record at the beginning of the indigency period, including annual surcharges that have not been assessed for the offenses.

(6) During the 180-day payment period, the department will rescind the suspension of driving privileges. If payment of the reduced amount is not received within 180 days, the suspension of driving privileges will be reinstated. The reduced amount will apply until it is paid in full.

(7) If a new offense that results in a surcharge is reported 90 days or more from the notice date, the individual must submit a new application to determine continued eligibility for an indigency reduction. Surcharges due for the new offense reported within 90 days will be included in the total amount of surcharges reduced under paragraph (5) of this subsection. A notice will be sent to the applicant and will provide the last date to pay and the new balance due. Payment for the new balance must be received within the 180-day payment period set out in the original notice.

(8) If the applicant is not eligible for a reduction under this section, a letter of denial will be sent to the individual.

(9) If the applicant has made payment(s) prior to approval for the reduced payment, the prior payment(s) will be applied to the reduced payment.

(A) If the prior payment(s) is less than the reduced payment, the applicant will be required to pay only the difference.

(B) If prior payment(s) exceeds the reduced payment, the applicant will not be required to make a payment. Any prior payments that exceed the reduced payment will not be processed for a refund.

(10) The compensation authorized by Texas Transportation Code, §708.155(c) applies to the reduced payment.

This agency hereby certifies that the adoption has been reviewed by legal counsel and found to be a valid exercise of the agency’s legal authority.

Filed with the Office of the Secretary of State on October 22, 2010.

TRD-201006032

Duncan R. Fox

Interim General Counsel

Texas Department of Public Safety

Effective date: November 11, 2010

Proposal publication date: August 6, 2010

For further information, please call: (512) 424-5848

CHAPTER 15. DRIVER LICENSE RULES

SUBCHAPTER J. DRIVER RESPONSIBILITY PROGRAM

37 TAC §15.163

The Texas Department of Public Safety (the department) adopts the repeal of §15.163, concerning Amnesty, Incentive and Indigency Programs, without changes to the proposal as published in the August 6, 2010, issue of the Texas Register (35 TexReg 6798).

Adoption of this repeal is necessary in order to simultaneously adopt a new §15.163 which will provide for an added reduction on all surcharges issued prior to the proposed rule providing drivers the ability to comply with the Driver Responsibility law and maintain driving privileges.

No comments were received regarding the adoption of this repeal.

The repeal is adopted pursuant to Texas Government Code, §411.004(3), which authorizes the Public Safety Commission to adopt rules considered necessary for carrying out the department’s work; and Texas Transportation Code, §708.157.

This agency hereby certifies that the adoption has been reviewed by legal counsel and found to be a valid exercise of the agency’s legal authority.

Filed with the Office of the Secretary of State on October 22, 2010.

TRD-201006031

Duncan R. Fox

Interim General Counsel

Texas Department of Public Safety

Effective date: November 11, 2010

Proposal publication date: August 6, 2010

For further information, please call: (512) 424-5848


37 TAC §15.163

The Texas Department of Public Safety (the department) adopts new §15.163, concerning Amnesty, Incentive and Indigency Programs. New §15.163 is adopted with changes to the proposed text as published in the August 6, 2010, issue of the Texas Register (35 TexReg 6799) and will be republished.

Adoption of this new section provides for an added reduction on all surcharges issued prior to the proposed rule, providing drivers the ability to comply with the Driver Responsibility law and maintain driving privileges. These changes promote the department’s objective of increasing public safety on the roadways by ensuring the license holder remains in compliance with the law and in compliance with the surcharge program.

The department accepted comment on the proposed rule through September 7, 2010. Written comments were submitted by Rep. Lon Burnam, Rep. Ruth McClendon, Denise Rose, J.D. representing Texas Hospital Association, Amanda Marzullo representing Texas Fair Defense Project, John A. Guest representing Teaching Hospitals of Texas, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, and 39 individuals. Changes were made to proposed new §15.163 based on the comments received by the department. Substantive comments received, as well as the department’s responses, thereto, are summarized below:

COMMENT: Regarding §15.163(a)(5) and (6), the Teaching Hospitals of Texas recommended adding the ability to pay the reduced surcharge in partial payments during the amnesty period, and to allow for e-mail notifications in lieu of mailing notices to customers.

RESPONSE: The department agrees with these recommendations. The rule states that payment of the reduced amount must be received by the end of the amnesty period. The department will provide information to applicants on the acceptance of payments in any amount during the amnesty period. The department changed the wording in §15.163(a)(6) from “mailed” to “sent”, which is consistent with the indigency program language, to allow for e-mailing notifications to customers.

COMMENT: Regarding §15.163(b), the Texas Hospital Association recommended implementation of the incentive program on a specific date, such as April 1, 2011. Rep. Lon Burnam, and The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition recommended the implementation of the incentive program not be left to the department’s discretion.

RESPONSE: The department disagrees with these comments. The proposed language allows the department to implement the incentive program upon completion of the fiscal analysis of the amnesty and indigency programs.

COMMENT: Regarding §15.163(b)(2) and (3), the Texas Fair Defense Project recommended relief to other low-income drivers by amending the incentive program to apply to individuals living above 125% but below 300% of the federal poverty guidelines. It further recommended the removal of the reduction for payment of the surcharges in full, and only implementing the reduction of subsequent years for the low-income drivers. They assert that this would allow the department to implement the incentive program immediately, and would not result in the estimated fiscal impact of the proposed incentive program.

RESPONSE: The department agrees with the recommendation for providing an incentive to low-income drivers, and has amended the incentive program by adding the new criterion for eligibility as paragraph (2) of subsection (b) which results in the renumbering of the subsequent paragraphs within subsection (b). The department does not agree with removal of the reduction for payment of surcharges in full, as it provides low-income drivers an additional option for receiving a reduction and complying with all three surcharges immediately.

COMMENT: Regarding §15.163(b)(3)(B) – (D), the Texas Hospital Association recommended clarification of the timeframe for payment of a reduced surcharge amount based on the date the individual receives notification that a surcharge is due under the Driver Responsibility Program.

RESPONSE: The department is in agreement with this public comment, and has amended the language to specify the time period begins from the date of the surcharge notice.

COMMENT: Regarding §15.163(c), the Teaching Hospitals of Texas submitted a comment supporting the indigency program, and recommended applications be made available online and in all driver license offices.

RESPONSE: The department agrees with the recommendations, and the rule already provides for applications to be available online. The department has added the website address where the application is located online and the department will also make applications available in the driver license offices.

COMMENT: Regarding §15.163(c)(1), Rep. Lon Burnam, The Texas Fair Defense Project, and The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition recommended the waiver of the surcharge under the indigency program to be the same as the statutory waiver of surcharges by courts under Texas Transportation Code, §708.158.

RESPONSE: The department is not in agreement with this comment. A waiver of the surcharges is not authorized under Texas Transportation Code, §708.157, therefore the department cannot implement this suggestion.

COMMENT: Regarding §15.163(c), Rep. Lon Burnam recommended the reduction of surcharges for individuals living at or below 250% of the federal poverty level and Rep. Ruth McClendon recommended the department define the indigency level as that adopted by the Health and Human Services Commission for Medicaid eligibility rather than 125%.

RESPONSE: The department is not in agreement with these comments. Texas Transportation Code, §708.158, creates an indigency provision administered by the court at the time of disposition for an offense. This indigency provision defines indigency as living at or below 125% of the poverty level, which is consistent with the definition proposed by the department in §15.163(c).

COMMENT: Regarding §15.163(c)(1), the Texas Fair Defense Project recommended relief to other low-income drivers be limited to individuals living above 125% but below 300%, or to be based on income alone, rather than individuals with a 50% debt-to-income ratio because this could include individuals whose income is greater than 300% of the federal poverty guidelines.

RESPONSE: The department recognizes that the determination of indigency based on a debt-to-income ratio can have the unintended consequence of offering a reduction to individuals who have the ability to comply, and has amended the indigency program by removing this criterion.

COMMENT: Regarding §15.163(c)(2), the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition recommended removing the application notarization requirements to more efficiently serve those eligible and minimize administrative burdens.

RESPONSE: The department is not in agreement with this comment. The use of a sworn affidavit is an accepted practice by state and federal courts. The sworn affidavit eliminates the need for supporting documents with each application, which would require extensive resources to review. Furthermore, it allows for prosecution of individuals who attempt to receive a reduction by submitting a fraudulent application.

COMMENT: Regarding §15.163(c)(7), the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition recommended extending the requirement for new applications to one year to more efficiently serve those eligible and minimize administrative burdens.

RESPONSE: The department is not in agreement with these comments, as an individual’s status as indigent can change. The reapplication process after 90 days reduces the burden on the individual by not requiring a new application for each new surcharge, while still allowing the department to verify that the indigent status has not changed.

Additionally, the department has made the following nonsubstantive changes to §15.163, for the purposes of clarity:

Regarding §15.163(a), the words “amnesty program” have been added at the beginning of the subsection to easily identify the name of the program.

Regarding §15.163(a)(2), the website address and telephone number to complete the application for amnesty have been added to facilitate the application process.

Regarding §15.163(b), the words “incentive program” have been added at the beginning of the subsection to easily identify the name of the program.

Regarding §15.163(b)(3)(A), the website address to obtain an online application and the option to pick up the application at any driver license office has been added to facilitate the application process.

Regarding §15.163(c), the words “indigency program” have been added at the beginning of the subsection to easily identify the name of the program.

Regarding §15.163(c)(2), the website address to obtain an online application and the option to pick up the application at any driver license office has been added to facilitate the application process.

The new section is adopted pursuant to Texas Government Code, §411.004(3), which authorizes the Public Safety Commission to adopt rules considered necessary for carrying out the department’s work; Texas Transportation Code, §708.157(a), which authorizes the department to establish a periodic amnesty program for holders of a driver’s license on which a surcharge has been assessed for certain offenses; Texas Transportation Code, §708.157(b), which authorizes the department to establish an incentive program for holders of a driver’s license on which a surcharge has been assessed for certain offenses; and Texas Transportation Code, §708.157(c), which requires the department to establish an indigency program for holders of a driver’s license on which a surcharge has been assessed for certain offenses.