600,000 Texans Eligible for Drivers License Reinstatement and Waived Fees


Repeal of Discriminatory Driver Responsibility Program Takes Effect

As of September 1, 2019, more than 600,000 Texans will be eligible to have their drivers licenses reinstated and pending surcharges waived as the Driver Responsibility Program (DRP) repeal takes effect. Lawmakers from both parties have fought to end this 16-year-old program, and in June, a federal class action lawsuit filed by Equal Justice Under Law against Governor Greg Abbot and Texas’ Department of Public Safety expedited the repeal.

 The DRP assessed annual surcharges ranging from $100 to $1,500 for traffic citations such as driving with no insurance or no driver’s license.  These fees were in addition to the cost of the ticket issued. Failure to pay or to set up a payment plan would result in indefinite driver’s license suspension. Over 1.4 million Texans’ licenses were suspended because of DRP surcharges, all of whom will have their remaining surcharges waived, and nearly half are now eligible to have their driver’s license reinstated since the repeal of the program.  Others will be eligible after resolving other issues.

Equal Justice Under Law, a national civil rights organization based in Washington, D.C., in partnership with the Austin Community Law Center, filed a lawsuit in federal court in December 2017 against Governor Greg Abbot and Texas’ Department of Public Safety, and after the filing of the suit, the DRP was promptly repealed.  The State received pressure from both sides of the political aisle to do away with the policy which unfairly placed financial burdens on people beyond the scope of their case, and in turn led to license suspensions for impoverished Texans, which makes maintaining employment a greater challenge for those unable to pay.

 “This unfair license suspension scheme particularly targeted Texas’ most impoverished residents,” says Phil Telfeyan, Executive Director of Equal Justice Under Law. “Individuals who could not pay were losing jobs and homes, becoming homeless for a minor ticket that wealthier drivers could simply pay and forget. The repeal of this discriminatory policy is a huge step in the right direction for the State of Texas.”

 Additional information about the this repeal and the process for getting a driver’s license reinstated is found online at https://www.dps.texas.gov/DriverLicense/FAQs/drpIndex.htm.

Heather Pritchett