Our office has been getting a lot of questions from DWI clients concerning the new amnesty program for driver's license surcharges that DPS began this week. Many of our clients have read an article about the program in the newspaper, or seen a clip about it on TV, and are under the mistaken impression that driver's license surcharges are now a thing of the past. Not so.

The old driver's license surcharges are still in effect. The surcharge for a first offense DWI, with a breath test under .16 is still $1000 a year for three years; for a subsequent DWI, $1500 a year; and for a DWI with a breath test of .16 or above, $2000 a year.

What has changed is that, if you were assessed a surcharge before 2009, and you are delinquent, you can apply for forgiveness, get a reduction of the amount you owe, and possible get your license reinstated. In April, the DPS is supposed to unveil a program which will allow for surcharge reductions for those making less than 125% of the federal poverty level. In addition, if you can't qualify for amnesty, you can now qualify for an occupational driver's license, at least according to the Court of Appeals in Fort Worth.

In the past, the DPS has routinely denied requests for occupational licenses for those who are delinquent on surcharges. The Forth Worth Court of Appeals recently said that no such restriction is allowed in the statute governing occupational licenses. So, even if you can't pay your surcharges, you still may be able to drive to work on an occupational DL.


September is the month that a new law goes into effect concerning the use of deferred adjudication probation as a reason for denying, uspending or revoking someone's professional license.  Unfortunately, the text of the new statute spills a lot of ink without really changing very much. One of the main concerns our clients have is how a deferred adjudication on their records may affect their ability to obtain, and keep, a professional license.  

Many of the laws that govern whether or not someone is eligible to have a professional license in Texas permit a licensing agency to deny a professional license to someone if they receive deferred adjudication for certain types of offenses.  House Bill 2808 from the last legislative session seeks, at first blush, to change all of this.  The new law states that a licensing authority may not consider a successfully completed deferred adjudication for the purposes of granting or yanking a license. However, the exceptions in the new law are so broad that it's hard to see how anything changes.  

The statute specifically allows state agencies to consider a deferred adjudication the same as a conviction for licensing purposes if the employment being regulated involves law enforcement, public health, education, safety services or financial services. I don't know about other defense lawyers, but the only clients I get coming to me on a regular basis worrying about how a deferred adjudication will affect their professional licenses ARE people working in law enforcement, public health, education, safety and financial services.  What's left? Maybe now you can clear that last hurdle to get your cosmetology certificate.  Other than that, you're still screwed.  Thanks Texas Lege.  Thanks for nothing.


I recently had a couple of people coming into my office for occupational driver's licenses who were surprised when they received driver's license suspensions due to drug  convictions.  One guy had gotten a Class B Misdemeanor Possession of Marijuana conviction, and the other had been conviction of Possession of Controlled Substance  (cocaine).  I had not represented either of these guys in their respective drug cases. When each guy was in court entering his guilty plea to a drug conviction, neither the courts admonished them, nor did their attorneys warn them, that they could receive  an automatic driver's license suspension for being convicted of a drug offense. 

They did not find out about the driver's license consequences until they received the  suspension notices from DPS in the mail. Unfortunately for them, if you are convicted of a drug offense in Texas, you receive an automatic suspension of your driver's license  -- even if you weren't driving a car at  the time you were arrested.  Generally, the  suspension is for six (6) months, but if you are under 21 years of age, its a year.  And unfortunately, courts are not legally  required to warn you of these potential driver's license consequences when you enter a plea.  For those of you on deferred adjudication of a drug offense, if your deferred  adjudication probation is later adjudicated/revoked, then the suspension kicks in at that point. Before you consider entering into a deal in a drug case, always ask about, and consider, the potential driver's license consequences.  If doesn't necessarily mean that you  still won't wind up deciding to take the deal, but at least you'll be prepared to make arrangements to drive for work, school, etc.

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