drivers license responsibility

New Texas Laws You Should Know About in 2019

In the 2019 Texas Legislative session, lawmakers passed 820 new Texas laws. Among them were the widely popular “Beer to Go” and an attempt to stop telemarketers.

Texas Legislature Ends Driver Responsibility Program Relieving Many in Debt

A program that left many with suspended licenses in Texas ended at the start of September. Texas’ Driver Responsibility Program required drivers to pay additional fees on certain offenses such as speeding, driving while intoxicated, and driving without a license. Failure to pay the fines, or opt into a payment plan, automatically suspends their driver’s license. Drivers who failed to appear in court to answer a citation or pay the associated fines were prohibited from renewing their license by the state.

As of January 2018, estimates from experts showed that the program affected approximately 1.4 million drivers – all ineligible to obtain a valid driver’s license as a result of not paying additional fees.

After September 1, 2019 what happens to unpaid surcharges?

There’s good news for those facing fees. All surcharges will be dropped. The Department of Public Safety will waive all surcharges under the Driver Responsibility Program and no future fees related to the surcharges will be assessed.

Other fines or fees on a person’s driving record still apply. Payments made prior to the repeal will not be refunded. Get all the answers to questions about the surcharge repeal on Texas Department of Public Safety’s FAQ page.

How Many Unlicensed Drivers Will Regain their License?

It’s estimated as many as 1 Million Texas drivers could get their licenses back as a result of the new policy. No longer will so many low income Texans become trapped in the surcharge cycle. Many continued to drive to work, or drive their kids to school without a license. It’s also true that these drivers were often unable to obtain insurance on their vehicle.

Former state Rep. Mike Krusee, a Tyler Republican, told the Star Telegram that the DRP “has created more problems than it has solved. This program has created backlogs in our courts and passed on undue costs to our counties. What’s worse, the DRP has led to more uninsured and unlicensed drivers on the road.”

Drivers can’t obtain car insurance without a valid driver’s license. And in cases in which the car was insured, it’s probable the unlicensed driver was listed as an excluded driver from the insurance policy. Read more about excluded, uninsured drivers at www.McMinnLaw.com

What the Fee? Fines Helped State Pay for Texas’ Rural Medical Network

The program arose out of a need for lawmakers to find funds for the state’s emergency trauma care system. So in 2003, the state enacted the Driver Responsibility Program to fund an effort to provide accessibility to adequate emergency medical services to rural communities.

Now, the trauma centers will still operate partially funded by state dollars. But the life-saving physicians needed at rural emergency medical centers will be funded with new means.

Under the new legislation, lawmakers needed $70 million to make up funds for emergency trauma care system previously raised through the Driver Responsibility Program. Instead, the needed money will come from raising the rate of general state fines from $30 to $50. It’ll also come from a $2 annual fee to automobile insurance across the state.
Still, more funds will come from higher fines for DWI offenses. With all these avenues for revenue, the trauma center fund sees a net gain of $6.8 million over two years – one reason the bill was supported by the group.


Texas DMV Gets Boost in Funding

Texas lawmakers hope that an added $2.12 million to DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) will reduce dreaded wait times. “Going to the DMV” can be an all day affair. A report released in 2018 showed that already lengthy wait times were only getting longer.

In the most recent Texas legislative session, lawmakers gave DPS a $212 million funding boost. Texas Tribune reports Texans are still skeptical it will be enough to improve conditions. The increase will be used primarily to hire an additional 762 employees at driver’s license offices. Mega centers and “severely crowded” offices will hire a maximum number of workers. Another 100 DPS offices will see smaller increases in personnel.

Another quarter of the money will go to reclassifying some customer service staffers as license permit specialists and boosting their pay. Some Texans are unconvinced the added staff and restructuring will be enough to reduce wait times at the DPS.

Most states run driver’s license programs through their respective Department of Motor Vehicles. If the switch is to be made, state officials will learn more about the viability of the proposal through $1M passed for DPS to conduct a feasibility study.


Brass Knuckles and Other Self Defense Now Legal

A bill to lift the ban on brass knuckles passed during the latest Texas legislative session. The bill follows a trend in eliminating barriers to carry self defense weapons, such as knives. Texas state Rep Joe Moody, a Democrat from El Paso, authored the bill calling the ban on brass knuckles “antiquated.” He said the law was used to target young people of color.

The issue came to attention when a Dallas woman faced arrest and criminal charges for carrying a cat-shaped self-defense keychain in her purse. Police arrested Kyli Phillips after a fender bender for carrying the device. Under the law, she could have had to pay $4,000 in fines and a year of jail time had she been convicted of the misdemeanor.

According to The Dallas Morning News, law enforcement convicted 93 people of having brass knuckles in 2017.

Moody said that it is not a good use of resources for law enforcement to prosecute people for carrying novelty items and self-defense tools. This September brass knuckles became legal in Texas for the first time since 1918.

Texas Raises Sentences for Hit-and-Run Car Crashes

Motorists who injure, and then fail to stop and render aid will now receive harsher sentences in Texas. In the latest legislative session, lawmakers took up HB 2502, which makes hit-and-run sentences punishments equal to DWI manslaughter charges.

Efforts to get the legislation passed came from husband and wife, David and Julia Wood after they lost their son in a hit-and-run crash. Philip Wood, a former UT track runner, was killed at the hands of a driver who fled the scene of a crash. It’s unfortunately a reality that some hit and run drivers never get caught. However in this case, Joseph Cantu was found guilty of failing to stop and render aid. Cantu received the second degree felony in 2017. For causing the crash that killed Philip Wood, the driver received six years of probation, but no jail time.

After their experience of loss, Philip’s parents wanted to see harsher sentences for offenses like Cantu’s. Although it would never bring their son back, or change the penalties faced by the man who killed their son, they hoped to change the situation for families facing tragedies like theirs.

The new law creates a 120-day minimum prison sentence for anyone who receives probation for failing to stop and render aid in situations that result in death. That sentence stands in contrast to the Cantu – who ultimately never spent any time in jail and received six years probation and community service for killing the young track star.

David Wood said to Texas Tribune “It was not an easy or pleasant process, but we are believers that we try, if possible, to do things, if we have a bad experience, to make things better for other people.”

State Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso adopted the mission, and authored HB 2502. In testimony delivered in March to the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, Moody stated he hoped the bill would serve as a deterrent for drivers to leave the scene of a crash in the hopes of getting a lesser sentence.

Select Ordinance Updates by Austin City Council 2017-2018

On this Page:

  • Vision Zero initiative could impound cars for those without licenses
  • Uber, Lyft, Face Lawsuit After Pulling Out of Austin
  • Lawsuit Says Austin Rental Ordinance is “Illegal”

All is quiet at the Texas state capital in Austin, TX. But there are a few state laws you may have missed from last session, as well as a string of ordinances under consideration from Austin City Council. These laws could affect your practice, or just your day-to-day. Read on to keep up with the latest legal information on ordinances and laws that affect Austin, Texas.

Vision Zero: Austin Police Department Seeks to Target Unlicensed Drivers

Austin police are looking to amend city traffic regulations to allow officers to impound a vehicle (without making an arrest) if the driver is on the road without a license or with a suspended one.
Austin police presented the proposal during the Public Safety Commission’s monthly meeting. There was no majority vote from commissioners to adopt the measure, however the City Council will likely take up the issue in October or November.

Did Uber, Lyft Violate Labor Law When They Pulled out of Austin?

Uber and Lyft pulled out of Austin on May 9 following the failure of Prop 1, which would have allowed the companies to conduct their own background checks and bypass the city’s fingerprint-based background check requirement. When Uber and Lyft pulled out of Austin, about 10,000 drivers lost their jobs.

Beyond the highly publicized and contentious debate around fingerprint-based background checks was the real impact that the decision would have on drivers for Uber and Lyft.

The lawsuit: the cases, filed on behalf of Austin-area residents Todd Johnston (a former Uber driver) and David Thorton (a former Lyft driver) claim that the companies violated the 1988 Federal Labor law. Companies are required to provide at least 60 days notice before a mass layoff. If a company fails to notify employees of a layoff of 100 people or more, the employees are entitled to up to 60 days of back pay and other benefits.

Lawsuit argues that drivers are employees: The ride-hailing apps have long argued that their employees are “independent contractors,” and therefore not entitled to protections awarded to employees of a company. However, in April Uber agreed to pay up to $100 million to drivers in a California and Massachusetts class action lawsuit that stated that Uber owed the employees reimbursement for gas and mileage and withheld tips. The lawsuit charged that Uber had misclassified the drivers as independent contractors. Under the agreement of the settlement, the drivers would remain independent contractors, but be allowed to seek reimbursement for expenses.


Lawsuit Says Type II Rental Ordinance is “Illegal”

A lawsuit has been filed by the Texas Public Policy Foundation against the city of Austin saying that the short term rental ordinance is “illegal.” The short-term rental ordinance includes measures such as:

  • A curfew on when residents can be outside the rental property
  • Limits the number of guests that may stay at a property
  • Property is subject to inspections
  • Only 3% of housing in an area can be registered as a “Type II rental”

In February, City Council decided to stop issuing “Type II rentals” – a rental agreement for property owners who rent out their property for less than 30 days at a time. City council members such as Kathie Tovo cite concerns that the practice could be pricing out Austinites from housing.

The ordincance and lawsuit have become a battleground between short-term vacation rental company HomeAway and some members of Austin City Council.

Austin City council has stated that the city’s lawyers are prepared to defend the ordinance in court.

What You need to Know About Austin’s New Tenant Relocation Ordinance

As of Sept. 1, 2016 some apartment and mobile home tenants displaced by new development may be eligible for assistance from the city of Austin.

Critics say that the city’s 2016-2017 budget does not contain sufficient funds to support the new program which could cost the city as much as $1.6 million. City officials plan to gather funds through a Tenant Relocation Fee Fund.
Developers must pay a tenant relocation fee if they are requesting a rezoning or land use approval. They must also pay a fee if they propose a planned unit development (for example, may include shops on first floor and housing above) in place of an existing multifamily development.

The city would use payments to administer assistance to those that are displaced by new development. Developers who fail to meet requirements of the ordinance can receive a fine of up to $500.

Who is eligible under the new city ordinance?

  • Tenants must have a household income at or below 70 percent of the median family income.
  • Mobile home park residents must have an income at or below 80 percent of the median family income.
  • A tenant must live in a multifamily building with five or more residential units or mobile home parks in order to be eligible.
  • Amendments have been proposed that tenants be in good standing with the terms of their lease in order to qualify.

In addition, developers must provide notice to the tenants 120 days prior to submitting an application for a building or demolition permit. A mobile home park requires 270 days notice prior to applying for a demolition permit. Failure to meet these guidelines could result in a fine.

Austin Officials Are “Banning the Box” on Background Checks

In March of 2016, Austin City Council made it easier for people previously convicted of a crime to apply for jobs in Austin. The “ban the box” measure prohibits companies from asking job applicants about their criminal histories until the applicant is well into the hiring process.

The law will be the first “ban the box” measure in Texas. The law is designed to help those who have a criminal record still find employment. Supporters of the law show that because racial minorities are often incarcerated at higher rates, job applications that require a criminal record upfront can disenfranchise them.

More than 100 U.S. cities and 19 states have similar provisions that delay criminal background checks until later in the hiring process

Some say that “Ban the Box” laws mirror U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission fair-hiring recommendations. The commission requests that an employer consider the gravity of a criminal offense before denying someone employment.

Some business leaders worry that the ban will cause local employers to spend more time filling jobs.


Police officers would be able to impound a vehicle for one of the following reasons:

  • A person without a driver’s license was involved in a crash.
  • A person without a driver’s license was stopped for a traffic violation and has been convicted of two prior moving violations
  • A person without a driver’s license was stopped for a traffic violation and is driving with a license that has been suspended for drug offences, driving while intoxicated, or for having committed multiple violations.

There are also two items to note: even if the driver is not the owner of the vehicle, officers could still impound the vehicle. Officers would be focusing on people who do not have a driver’s license or who have a suspended license. The measure would not affect people with an expired driver’s license.

Critics of the proposal say that it would unintentionally affect immigrants to the United States. The critics worry that it could be an additional hardship for those living in poverty. In Austin, a tow company charges people $218.30 if they pick up the vehicle on the first day. If picked up on the second day, the tow companies charge an additional $21.65 for every extra day the vehicle is in storage.

Did Uber, Lyft Violate Labor Law When They Pulled out of Austin?

Uber and Lyft pulled out of Austin on May 9 following the failure of Prop 1, which would have allowed the companies to conduct their own background checks and bypass the city’s fingerprint-based background check requirement. When Uber and Lyft pulled out of Austin, about 10,000 drivers lost their jobs.

Beyond the highly publicized and contentious debate around fingerprint-based background checks was the real impact that the decision would have on drivers for Uber and Lyft.

The lawsuit: the cases, filed on behalf of Austin-area residents Todd Johnston (a former Uber driver) and David Thorton (a former Lyft driver) claim that the companies violated the 1988 Federal Labor law. Companies are required to provide at least 60 days notice before a mass layoff. If a company fails to notify employees of a layoff of 100 people or more, the employees are entitled to up to 60 days of back pay and other benefits.

Lawsuit argues that drivers are employees: The ride-hailing apps have long argued that their employees are “independent contractors,” and therefore not entitled to protections awarded to employees of a company. However, in April Uber agreed to pay up to $100 million to drivers in a California and Massachusetts class action lawsuit that stated that Uber owed the employees reimbursement for gas and mileage and withheld tips. The lawsuit charged that Uber had misclassified the drivers as independent contractors. Under the agreement of the settlement, the drivers would remain independent contractors, but be allowed to seek reimbursement for expenses.

Lawsuit Says Type II Rental Ordinance is “Illegal”

A lawsuit has been filed by the Texas Public Policy Foundation against the city of Austin saying that the short term rental ordinance is “illegal.” The short-term rental ordinance includes measures such as:

  • A curfew on when residents can be outside the rental property
  • Limits the number of guests that may stay at a property
  • Property is subject to inspections
  • Only 3% of housing in an area can be registered as a “Type II rental”

In February, City Council decided to stop issuing “Type II rentals” – a rental agreement for property owners who rent out their property for less than 30 days at a time. City council members such as Kathie Tovo cite concerns that the practice could be pricing out Austinites from housing.

The ordincance and lawsuit have become a battleground between short-term vacation rental company HomeAway and some members of Austin City Council.

Austin City council has stated that the city’s lawyers are prepared to defend the ordinance in court.

What You need to Know About Austin’s New Tenant Relocation Ordinance

As of Sept. 1, 2016 some apartment and mobile home tenants displaced by new development may be eligible for assistance from the city of Austin.

Critics say that the city’s 2016-2017 budget does not contain sufficient funds to support the new program which could cost the city as much as $1.6 million. City officials plan to gather funds through a Tenant Relocation Fee Fund.
Developers must pay a tenant relocation fee if they are requesting a rezoning or land use approval. They must also pay a fee if they propose a planned unit development (for example, may include shops on first floor and housing above) in place of an existing multifamily development.

The city would use payments to administer assistance to those that are displaced by new development. Developers who fail to meet requirements of the ordinance can receive a fine of up to $500.

Who is eligible under the new city ordinance?

  • Tenants must have a household income at or below 70 percent of the median family income.
  • Mobile home park residents must have an income at or below 80 percent of the median family income.
  • A tenant must live in a multifamily building with five or more residential units or mobile home parks in order to be eligible.
  • Amendments have been proposed that tenants be in good standing with the terms of their lease in order to qualify.

In addition, developers must provide notice to the tenants 120 days prior to submitting an application for a building or demolition permit. A mobile home park requires 270 days notice prior to applying for a demolition permit. Failure to meet these guidelines could result in a fine.

Austin Officials Are “Banning the Box” on Background Checks

In March of 2016, Austin City Council made it easier for people previously convicted of a crime to apply for jobs in Austin. The “ban the box” measure prohibits companies from asking job applicants about their criminal histories until the applicant is well into the hiring process.

The law will be the first “ban the box” measure in Texas. The law is designed to help those who have a criminal record still find employment. Supporters of the law show that because racial minorities are often incarcerated at higher rates, job applications that require a criminal record upfront can disenfranchise them.

More than 100 U.S. cities and 19 states have similar provisions that delay criminal background checks until later in the hiring process

Some say that “Ban the Box” laws mirror U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission fair-hiring recommendations. The commission requests that an employer consider the gravity of a criminal offense before denying someone employment.

Some business leaders worry that the ban will cause local employers to spend more time filling jobs.

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