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New DPS Laws During COVID-19 and How They Affect You!

New DPS Laws During COVID-19 and How They Affect You!

With all the constant updates and information about COVID-19, you may have missed some of Governor Abbott’s changes. In an effort to alleviate some issues while federal and state governments develop a plan to minimize the virus’ spread, Governor Abbott has extended some deadlines for drivers and modified other Transportation Code regulations.

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DPS Office Closures

The most recent update involves the closure of DPS offices statewide. On Wednesday, March 18, 2020, Governor Abbott ordered the immediate closure of DPS offices. That order includes the local office in Bryan, Texas. The only licenses being processed at local offices are initial requests for Commercial Drivers Licenses (CDLs), and only at those offices where CDL testing is held. If you are seeking a CDL for the first time, you can schedule an appointment with an office where CDL testing is done. All other license holders are encouraged to verify if they can renew their license online. That leads us to the next item, which is that Governor Abbott has also signed an order extending the expiration dates of Texas ID cards and driver’s licenses.

Expiration Dates Extended for ID cards and Driver’s Licenses

On March 13, Governor Abbott signed an order declaring Texas a disaster area. In addition to invoking statutory language for the increase in punishment levels for certain criminal offenses, this declaration also authorized the governor to extend the expiration date of Texas ID cards and driver’s licenses during this emergency.

To qualify for this extension, certain criteria must be met:

  1. Your Texas ID card or driver’s license must expire on or after March 13, 2020;
  2. The current date is within 60 days of the END of the disaster declaration; and
  3. Your DL must not be ineligible due to enforcement actions like suspensions or revocations.

In other words, your Texas ID card or driver’s license must be otherwise VALID with a current expiration date of March 13, 2020 or later. In order to comply with this extension, your expiration date must be within 60 days of the end of the disaster declaration. As of this posting, there is no information as to when that date may be.

Suspension of Other Rules Related to Vehicles and Driving

Yet another effect of the disaster declaration is that Governor Abbott, in an effort to minimize face-to-face contact, has suspended certain rules and timelines regarding vehicles and driving. These suspended rules include:

  1. The requirement to renew your vehicle’s registration before it expires
  2. Filing a certificate of title within 30 days of purchasing a car, and also any associated late fees for that filing
  3. The requirement to register your vehicle within 30 days of purchase or becoming a Texas resident
  4. Certain offenses for having an expired license plate
  5. Certain offenses related to not properly displaying current registration
  6. Expiration dates of handicap parking placards

As with the extension for expired ID cards and driver’s licenses, these modified rules remain in effect until 60 days after the end of the emergency declaration.

Practically speaking, the suspension of these regulations should minimize contact between citizens and those people working for DPS, as well as contact between citizens and law enforcement officers. With this declaration, law enforcement should not be able to rely on the lack of current registrations or expired license plates as the sole basis to conduct a traffic stop. Although these regulations may be temporarily suspended, it is important to remember that none of these exemptions concern moving violations like speeding, failing to yield the right of way, or failing to use a turn signal. The goal of these temporary exemptions is to minimize contact during this emergency, not to encourage bad driving. If you are stopped by law enforcement and believe it was in violation of these temporarily suspended regulations, call us at Greening Law so we can evaluate your case and explain your options.

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