Before You Pay a Texas Traffic Ticket
Date Published: December 7, 2018
Nobody wants a traffic ticket, wherever they live. And motor vehicle violations are 'equal opportunity', aggravating celebrities (Wedding Crashers' Vince Vaughn), sports stars (Golf's Tiger Woods) and the not-so-famous.
If you receive a Texas motor vehicle citation, you'll want to keep a few things in mind.
The Texas Surcharge System
Texas' Department of Public Safety (DPS) established the "Driver Responsibility Program" to assess surcharges. Each time a surcharge is added to an individual's driving record, she is notified by mail. Surcharges are in addition to other fees, and do not replace a suspension, revocation, denial, disqualification or cancellation resulting from the same conviction.
Surcharges are assessed in two ways:
- Point System
- Conviction Based
They are not mutually exclusive; if you receive both points and a conviction, you will receive separate surcharges for each offense.
Surcharges based on points start once you have 6 points. These surcharges are uniform throughout Texas. After you get more than 6 points, your surcharge is $100. More points will cost you $25 each point. Texas reviews your driving record annually, and your surcharges must be paid each year when points remain on your record.
For convictions on more serious charges, surcharges are paid for 3 years. Although no points are added to your driving record, conviction-based surcharges are expensive. For example:
- for a DWI (driving while intoxicated), the first offense carries a $1,000 surcharge
- for a DWI with a blood alcohol content (BAC) higher than 0.16, you will face a surcharge of $2,000 per year
How to Pay for a Texas Traffic Ticket
After you get a Texas traffic ticket, you have 20 days to decide whether to pay or fight it. There are several convenient ways to pay, but not all methods may be available in your county. Typically, traffic tickets can be paid in person, by mail, online or via telephone.
What NOT to do When You Receive a Texas Motor Vehicle Violation
Do NOT ignore your traffic ticket, no matter how trivial or 'minor' it may seem. Otherwise, you could be arrested if a warrant is issued. Your driver's license also may be automatically suspended. In either case, you will incur more time and expense than if you simply paid the original ticket.
What Happens When You Pay the Ticket
If you opt to pay your Texas traffic ticket, you are admitting guilt in the case. A more serious criminal case can have significant consequences (points, surcharges, increased insurance rates, possible incarceration). You should consult with an experienced Texas traffic ticket attorney for advice.
The court may let you take a driver safety program, which may help remove points, lessen fines, fees, penalties, or even dismiss the case. You should seek advice from experienced legal counsel to guide you.