Rodriguez v. Mach

Under the Driver Responsibility Program, additional surcharges from $100- $1000 are automatically added for three years to the underlying court fines and penalties for certain enumerated offenses. Further, under the DRP, moving violation points are accumulated during the three years. The surcharge for the first six points is $100 and $25 for each additional point. There is no individualized inquiry into the person’s ability to pay.

Many never receive notices that their licenses have been suspended and those that receive notices don’t have enough information as to how they can avoid the debt due to their inability to pay. The notice informs individuals that they must pay in full or in automatically-set installment amounts. An individual’s license is suspended when a single payment is missed. Individuals on a payment plan only have their licenses reinstated when the full amount owed is paid, even if they make on-time payments.

According to the complaint, “By far the most common citations that lead to license suspensions under the DRP are those that pose no danger to traffic safety and that instead correlate with poverty — lack of insurance, lack of a license, driving while a license is expired, and driving while a license is invalid.“ Plaintiffs argue that their Equal protection and Due process rights were violated because of the inadequate notices, lack of inquiry into their ability to pay, and the suspension of their licenses solely because of their inability to pay.

The Texas Driver Responsibility Program was repealed by House Bill 2048; the repeal took effect on September 1, 2019. Finding that there was no indication that Texas would reenact the Driver Responsibility Program, the Court dismissed the case as moot on September 3, 2019.

You can read the full text of the complaint and additional analysis via Equal Justice Under Law.

You can also read more about the stories of two of the plaintiffs, Garciela Rodriguez and Khalid Salahuddin.

42 USC § 1983 (alleging due process and equal protection violations)
December 2018
Equal Justice Under Law and Austin Community Law Center