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What are surcharges?

A surcharge is an additional fee charged by the state to drivers — this includes motorcyclists — who have a conviction on their driving record. The fee is usually determined either by a point system or by the type of conviction, and it may be assessed even after you pay off a ticket. For example, in Texas, a driver has to pay a surcharge if they acquire six points on their driving record. The driver receives two points for a traffic violation conviction and three points if the violation resulted in a crash. In this case, a driver is required to pay $100 for the first six points and $25 for any point after that.

The surcharge program is designed to discourage bad driving behavior, such as driving while intoxicated (DWI), by levying a significant fine on drivers who violate the law. New Jersey enacted its driver responsibility program in 1984 and has seen its driver fatality rate drop 24%, according to a 2003 report from the Florida Senate. It’s no secret that the surcharge program is also a means to collect revenue. According to the report from the Florida Senate, New Jersey collected $1.1 billion in revenue from its surcharge program, and it had a collection rate of 53%.

There are also surcharges for more serious offenses. For example, in Texas, a $1,000 fee is charged annually for three years to a driver who was convicted of a DWI offense for the first time, and that amount is increased to $1,500 for a subsequent offense. A $2,000 fine is charged by the state if the driver’s blood alcohol level was higher than 0.16. Meanwhile, a driver caught with no insurance or an invalid driver’s license will be hit with a $250 fine, and a driver with no driver’s license must pay a $100 surcharge. However, keep in mind that the fee system differs by state when it comes to offenses that can result in a surcharge. For example, New Jersey has a $1,000 surcharge for refusal to take a breathalyzer test.

If you do not pay your surcharge, your driving privileges will be revoked indefinitely and the state may also secure a lien against your property or garnish your wages. Many states offer a payment plan so that the fees can be paid in a timely manner, reducing your chances of getting into trouble because of late or missed payments.