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Rules to cut some low-income drivers' fines

The Texas Department of Public Safety is hoping proposed new rules will make it easier for low-income drivers to pay fines related to state law surcharges for certain violations.

Since 2003, drivers who commit certain Class C misdemeanors must pay penalties or have their licenses revoked.  Last year, lawmakers amended the law, called the Driver Responsibility Program, to require a reduction in fines for those who can’t afford to pay.  Personally, I don’t see why people should not have to pay fines just because they have a low income.  If they can’t pay the fine, they shouldn’t do the crime (drive safer).

Under current rules, the state charges $1,000 a year for three years for a first-time driving while intoxicated conviction.

Under the proposed reduced rates announced Friday, the surcharge for someone convicted of driving while intoxicated could be reduced to a one-time payment of $500.  Drivers would have 90 days to pay, or their licenses would be revoked and the reduction in fines voided.  Remind me why are we making it easier on drunk drivers?

Practical Tip

Myth: Just because there has been an accident and it wasn’t your fault, there must be some insurance company that will pay for your bills, lost wages and injuries.

Andrew Traub

Since 2003, 5.7 million drivers have been fined $1.8 billion under the program.  Of that, the state has collected $694.8 million.

The proposed rules would set the indigence rate at up to 125 percent of the federal poverty level.  Currently, the federal poverty level is $10,830 for an individual and $22,050 for a family of four.

Drivers would have to apply with the department and provide documentation, such as their most recent income tax return.

Please visit the Texas Register’s Web site in the next three months and tell them how assinine you think this change is.  I’m in favor as much as the next guy of making sure people have valid driver’s licenses and carry insurance, but driving is a privilege and we should all bear the costs equally – it shouldn’t be easier for poor people to get away with drunk driving.

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