Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Virginia's Abusive Driver Penalties
Last month, Virginia began imposing new fees of between $100 and $3000 on motorists convicted of certain offenses. A driver collecting two ordinary speeding citations would pay $100 a year for as long as the points remained on his record. Another driver found guilty of driving more than 15 MPH over the limit in a 65 zone would face a mandatory $1050 fee in addition to existing penalties of up to $2500 and a year in jail.
"The original bill when it was put together, the sponsor said, look, if we want to use this abuser fee mechanism and then use the revenues for transportation, there's no real way we could include out-of-staters," Kaine said. "If you were just to increase the ticket prices, for example, you could include out-of-staters in that, but that money all goes by law into the literary fund which is for school construction."
The recent rulings by two Virginia judges that the state's new abusive driver fees are unconstitutional could be setting the stage for an avalanche of more lawsuits.
Many in the legal community are predicting court challenges from across the state to the fees, which don't apply to out-of-state motorists.
Both a Henrico County judge and a Richmond General District Court judge ruled this week that that means the fees are unconstitutional because they violate the 14th Amendment's guarantee for equal protection under the law.
Virginia lawmakers are now considering changing the laws to include out-of-state drivers. The fees were passed as a way to help fund transportation projects without raising taxes.
Since the fees were enacted last month, more than 160,000 people have signed an online petition to repeal the laws.
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