Traffic tickets in Texas don't just carry expensive fines, but may also add points to a driver's record, which can result in higher auto insurance rates. A driver should attempt to avoid points because they are not very easy to remove. However, drivers can fix their record and remove the points if they take actions like attending traffic school or fighting the ticket in court.
Defining the Point System in Texas
The Texas point system assesses the amount of demerit points on a driver's record after drivers commit traffic offenses. The points also determine the penalty requirements they must meet for unsafe driving. A driver can accumulate different points for various violations, which depend on the severity and type of offense.
In addition to points on their record, depending on the infraction, drivers may also face penalties, including the revocation or suspension of their license, fines and even jail time. All minor and major offenses will add points to any driver's record. For example:
- In- and out-of-state convictions that result in a crash: Three points.
- In- and out-of-state traffic convictions without a crash: Two points.
Points and Corresponding Penalties
The state's Driver Responsibility Program authorizes the Department of Public Safety to add surcharges to a driver's record based on the traffic offenses incurred. These are in addition to other fines and do not replace the penalties from the same conviction. An individual who acquires at least six points within three years will see their driving privileges suspended, and a license suspension occurs automatically if someone drives while under the influence or causes a crash or accident due to their reckless driving.
Surcharges can also vary based on the type of traffic violation as well as on the number of points. A person who accumulates at least six demerit points on their record usually pays a $100 surcharge for the first six points and $25 for each one after that, but they can pay up to $1,000 in surcharges.
For example, penalties for driving while intoxicated (DWI) require a driver to pay a $1,000 surcharge for their first conviction. A driver caught driving without car insurance will pay $250, and people who drive without a driver's license face a $100 fee.
Fixing a Texas Driving Record
Drivers who wish to clear their driver's record in Texas may enroll in traffic school and complete a defensive driving course. This may not only help them remove points but may also result in the dismissal of their traffic ticket. The state Driver Responsibility Program lets drivers who have not paid the fine to receive a surcharge waiver or a reduction so that they can still drive. They can also attend driving safety programs either in person or online, depending on the specifics of their case.
The passage of time can also help drivers remove points. For example, a driver who does not accumulate additional points in 12 months can reduce one point from the total number on their driving record.
Ordering a Driver Record Online
A driver may want to order a copy of their driver record, which they can do online or through the mail. When ordering by mail, the driver will have to complete a record request form and submit it with payment to the Texas Department of Public Safety, PO Box 149008, Austin, Texas, 78714-9008. They'll need to know the type of driving record they want and submit certain information:
- Most recent Texas driver's license (standard or commercial drivers license) or identification card number with the audit number from that card. (In lieu of these, they must answer security questions to verify their identity.)
- Date of birth.
- Last four digits of their Social Security number.
- Valid Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express card to pay the fee.
A driver can request these driving records through the Texas DPS:
- (Type 1) Status Record: Includes name, date of birth, license status and most recent address, and costs $4.
- (Type 2) 3-year History Record: Includes name, date of birth, license status, accident and moving violations within three years, and costs $6.
- (Type 3) List of All Accidents and Violations on Record: Includes name, date of birth, license status, all accident and moving violations, and costs $7.
- (Type 2A) Certified 3-Year History Record: A certified version of a Type 2 driving record costs $10. A driver cannot use this for an online defensive driving course.
- (Type 3A) Certified List of All Accidents and Violations on Record: A certified version of a Type 3 driving record costs $10. A driver can use this for an online defensive driving course.
- (Type AR) Certified Abstracts of Driving Record: A certified abstract of the driver's complete record costs $20.00.
Disputing a Traffic Charge
Drivers can fight a traffic ticket by pleading not guilty and asking for a hearing in court. They prepare for the hearing as soon as the court schedules the date. How a driver disputes a traffic ticket will depend on the court. For example, Dallas courts offer drivers the opportunity to dismiss a traffic ticket online 21 days from the issuance date, but this may not be the case in other cities.
Drivers who contest a traffic ticket in court might want to consult an attorney to help them prepare the evidence they'll need to prove they are not guilty. They should not pay the fine before fighting the ticket since the state of Texas may consider this an admission of guilt.
- El Paso Traffic Ticket: Texas Points System Explained
- Texas Department of Public Safety: Application for Copy of Driver Record
- Texas Department of Public Safety: Licensee Driver Records
- DMV.com: Texas DMV Point System
- Driver's Ed: How to Request Your Texas Driving Record
- Texas Department of Public Safety: How to Order a Driver Record
- The defensive driving courses are for moving violations only. DUI and DWI offenses carry criminal penalties, and these cannot be erased from your record.
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.