Friday, July 20, 2007


(Each "Question of the Week," an idea which I gleaned from A Republic If You Can Keep It, will remain toward the top of the blog until the next question appears. The previous Questions of the Week are HERE. Please scroll down for recent postings)

On July 1, some new laws regarding special fees called "civil remedial fees," imposed for certain driving infractions, took effect here in Virginia. Those new fees have caused outrage among certain citizens, because of both the rates and the selective enforcement resulting in no such fees being imposed on out-of-state drivers, may be revised when the Virginia Assembly convenes in January.

The July 13, 2007 Washington Post published a story about the possible revision of those laws. Excerpt (emphases mine):
RICHMOND, July 12 -- Virginia Republican leaders, faced with growing opposition to the "abusive driver" fees that went into effect July 1, said Thursday that they will consider scrapping some of them when the General Assembly convenes in January.

The fees, some of which exceed $1,000 per infraction, were part of a transportation plan that lawmakers approved this year. They were designed to raise millions of dollars each year for road and transit projects by imposing surcharges onto the fines for Virginia motorists convicted of serious traffic offenses, such as driving under the influence.

But because of what legislators call an "error" and a "mistake," the fees also can be assessed on motorists who are convicted of less serious offenses. The surcharges did not receive much attention when lawmakers approved them Feb. 24., but the reaction has been overwhelmingly negative since Virginia residents learned about the fees this month.


For example, someone criminally charged with driving too fast for road conditions will have to pay $300 a year for three years, in addition to the regular fine. A motorist convicted of having an obstructed view of traffic will have to pay $350 a year for three years, as will anyone convicted of driving more than 80 mph on an interstate, according to an analysis by the Supreme Court of Virginia.


A coalition of anti-tax activists and advocates for the poor also has started an online petition drive calling for a special session. The group wants the General Assembly to eliminate all of the new fees, not just those for Class 3 or 4 misdemeanors. As of Thursday [July 12], more than 1,200 people had signed the petition. Another petition received more than 36,000 signatures.


The fees, which could raise as much as $65 million annually, were intended to be a partial substitute for a statewide tax increase...


In addition to the fees for misdemeanor and felony traffic convictions, motorists with eight or more points on their driving records will have to pay more. Those drivers have to pay $100 for the eight points and $75 for every additional point. Failure to pay will result in suspension of licenses.
Complete article here.

As indicated below, these special fees do not apply to out-of-state drivers, from this source (emphases mine):

Traffic offenders face whopping additional fees that live on long after they've paid their fines. It's part of a growing 'driver responsibility' trend that targets chronic offenders.

Traffic patrols have long been known as roving tax collectors. But in Virginia, they really are collecting taxes.

Starting July 1, an array of traffic offenses, from expired licenses to speeding, come with a "civil remedial fee" attached. That means a motorist convicted of reckless driving (75 mph in a 55 zone would qualify) faces not only a fine of up to $2,500 and a year in jail, but a non-negotiable $350-a-year tax for three years. The law forbids judges from waiving or reducing the fee.

Many fees dwarf the fines. A driver who disobeys an officer's order to pull into a weigh station would be fined $35 and required to pay a $61 court processing fee. But the civil remedial fee would be $900 over three years.

Drunken driving? A fee of $1,000 a year for three years, plus fines and court costs. No insurance? That's $300 a year for three years, plus fines.

It doesn't stop there. Anyone unlucky enough to have 8 points or more on his license (reckless driving is good for 6 by itself) would pay an additional $100, plus $75 for any points over 8, up to $700 a year. (For a complete list of fee-carrying offenses, see this .pdf file.)

Such "driver responsibility programs" have become increasingly common for two reasons: Many states find that serial offenders make up the bulk of their cases, and they simply need the money. In fact, Virginia added a fee rather than increase fines because it wanted the money to improve its roads, and revenue from fines must go to public schools. The fees are expected to raise $200 million a year.

The sponsor of the law, David Albo, is a partner in one of Virginia's largest law firms; one of its specialties is traffic cases.

One twist that has Virginia drivers enraged is that the state can't charge fees on out-of-state drivers or revoke their licenses. For now, the fees apply only to residents.

Virginia joins New York, New Jersey, Michigan and Texas in adopting "abusive-driver laws."

Here's a sampling of fees (information from


$100 a year for as long as the license has 7 points (plus $25 for each point over 7)

$1,000 x 2 years for DUI

$200 x 2 years for expired insurance

$150 x 2 years for an expired license

New Jersey:

$100 x 3 years for 6 points (plus $25 for each point over 6)

$1,000 x 3 for DUI

$250 x 3 years for expired insurance

New York:

$100 x 3 years for 6 points (plus $75 for each point over 6)

$250 x 3 years for DUI


$100 x 3 years for 6 points (plus $25 for each point over 6)

$1,000 x 3 years for DUI

$2,500 x 3 years for two DUIs

$250 x 3 years for expired insurance

$100 x 3 years for an expired license


$100 x 3 years for 8 points (plus $75 for each point over 8)

$750 x 3 years for DUI

$250 x 3 years for an expired license

$250 x 3 years expired insurance

QUESTION OF THE WEEK, in two parts: (1) Are stiff penalties effective in controlling driving offenses? (2) Should states selectively levy remedial fees as described above?


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posted by Always On Watch @ 7/20/2007 09:00:00 AM