Being accused and convicted of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is expensive.
On top of lawyer fees, court costs, days of work missed, and potential restitution fees, a DWI conviction may land you with Miscellaneous Traffic Fines. On September 1, 2019, the Texas Legislature enacted House Bill 2048 which created Chapter 709 of the Texas Transportation Code titled “Miscellaneous Traffic Fines”. These fines include:
- $3,000 for the first conviction within a 36 month period;
- $4,500 for a second or subsequent conviction within a 36 month period; and
- $6,000 for a first or subsequent conviction if the breath or blood test results show an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or more.
This chapter applies to people who are “finally convicted” of an “offense relating to the operating of a motor vehicle while intoxicated.”
But what does “finally convicted” mean? Because this statute is so new, the Texas appellate courts have not provided any guidance or interpretations of “finally convicted” in this context. The meaning of “finally convicted” is relevant to resolving a DWI because not every resolution ends in conviction, so there might be ways to avoid these fines.
The following are some ways that “finally convicted” have been interpreted:
- Applies only to sentences that result in jail or prison time, meaning sentences that are probated (placed on probation) or sentences that are placed on deferred adjudication would not qualify as a final conviction for the purpose of the fines.
- Applies to both sentences that result in jail or prison time AND sentences that have been probated, but does not apply to people who have been placed on deferred adjudication.
There could be other ways that the statute is interpreted and that is why it is important to know the judge you are in front of and find out how they have been imposing this fine.
The Miscellaneous Traffic Fine could be applied to your case, but if your income is low enough to be considered indigent, the fine might not apply to you. The statute allows for you to provide the court with evidence of your indigent status and then the court must waive the fines.
If you currently have a pending DWI, make sure you understand all of the costs that may be associated. Discuss them with your attorney!