Your driver license is precious to you, and you probably don’t think much about it. However, when you are faced with the real possibility of losing your license, it can be unnerving. This is especially true of those with so-called “unpaid traffic tickets” who receive a letter from the Texas Department of Public Safety entitled “Notice of Denial for Renewal of Texas Driver License”.
It warns its recipient his/her license will not be renewed, due to one or more unresolved traffic ticket cases. Recipients quickly imagine life without a valid license, and it’s scary. They eagerly want to fix the problem.
The Fix Is In
The letter provides this fix to the problem: “To resolve this matter, you must clear your outstanding violation(s). For violations in Texas, please call (800) 686-0570 or visit www.texasfailuretoappear.com to obtain the direct telephone number or the address of a court in Texas. The court will submit proof of compliance to DPS. Once the denial is lifted, you may visit your local driver license office for renewal.”
This is devious advice.
DPS makes no false statements in that language. However, it points people in a single direction which frequently harms them. They go to www.texasfailuretoappear.com to learn what “OMNI” holds they have, as well as how much the court expects them to pay. They contact the court, like DPS urges them to do, and courts inevitably tell them the path to clearing that hold is by paying the ticket. The sooner they pay, the sooner the hold is removed, and the clock is ticking to expiration. People pay. The hold is lifted, and the person renews the license.
So, problem solved, right? Not so fast.
What DPS Doesn’t Tell You
DPS leaves out a critical part about what can happen after the hold is lifted. Yes, the license can be renewed, and people promptly do so. DPS also begins applying the administrative (bureaucratic) rules to the reported conviction to their driving record. That often takes a little longer to sort out than getting the renewal hold removed.
A shocking letter from DPS arrives soon thereafter. The act of resolving the hold caused the license to be suspended or some other obligation to arise. The suspension could be automatic by operation of law. Other kinds of suspensions may be contested by requesting a hearing in court. An SR-22 may be required, due to the new conviction.
The obvious reaction DPS wants is for people to “take care” of the tickets by paying for the tickets. They are effective at getting people to do exactly that. I don’t blame people falling for it. DPS deserves blame. I believe it is underhanded because it provides just enough factual information to cause people to pay tickets without exploring other options.
You Still Have Rights
In most cases, the holds are due to simply failing to appear for a ticket. Most people call that “unpaid traffic tickets”, but I don’t consider that term to be accurate because it presumes you already owe something before you are found guilty. Failing to appear is not a virtuous thing to do, and it can lead to an additional charge. However, you still have rights.
You can still have a right to a jury trial, if you haven’t already entered a plea of guilty or no contest. Deferred disposition is possible in many cases, and it leads to dismissal. You might post a bond to get the hold removed while you address the ticket.
Avoiding conviction for the charge is often extremely valuable. It can protect your license from suspension and other limitations. You can save money on insurance. It can keep open some job options. You should explore your options before simply paying for a future of related problems and costs.
Stay calm when you get the Notice of Denial for Renewal of Texas Driver License. That is exactly the time you contact a criminal defense attorney who is knowledgeable about traffic laws.