Texas lawmakers reconsider higher drunk driving fines

In recent posts, we’ve noted how many drunk driving penalties have increased in severity in the last few years, and also discussed some of the escalating penalties that can apply to repeat drunk driving offenders under Texas law. One example is the Driver Responsibility law, which essentially raised the amount of fines — akin to a surcharge — that can be applied to drivers convicted of driving while intoxicated.

However, some Texas lawmakers are questioning the rationale behind the DWI surcharge, due in large part to statistics that indicate that the number of DWI crashes in the state increased in the past 10 years — from 26 to 34 percent. There are also a substantial number of multiple DWI offenders still on the road. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, 124,666 drivers in the state had at least three DWI convictions.

The amount of fines that may accompany a DWI conviction — in addition to possible jail time and license revocation or suspension — is anything but insubstantial. A first offense can result in a fine up to $2,000, a second offense might double that amount, and a third offense could be as high as $10,000. In addition to those initial fines, convicted DWI offenders may also be required to pay annual fines for three years just to maintain their driving privileges. Finally, if a child was a passenger in a DWI offender’s car, the fines could be even higher.

Other advocacy groups, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, advocate for interlock devices even for first-time DWI offenders, and higher sentences and fines across the board.

Yet there may be a flipside to such heavy-handed enforcement efforts: state and municipal prosecutors may not be able to afford or handle the higher caseloads. As a result, many DWI offenders who are represented by skilled attorneys are able to negotiate plea agreements, often resulting in additional charges being dropped, or lower fines or sentences.

Source:Texas lawmakers want an end to DWI surcharge law

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