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Old 06-27-2007, 10:48 AM   #1
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Hefty Fees in Store for Misbehaving Virginia Drivers

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...062201781.html


By Tom Jackman

Washington Post Staff Writer

Saturday, June 23, 2007; Page A01

Attention Virginians: The cost of bad driving is about to go up. Way up.

Say you are driving 78 mph on the Capital Beltway and a state trooper tickets you for "reckless driving -- speeding 20 mph over." You will probably be fined $200 by the judge. But then you will receive a new, additional $1,050 fine from the Old Dominion, payable in three convenient installments. So convenient that you must pay the first one immediately, at the courthouse.

First-time drunk driver? A $300 fine from the judge and a $2,250 fee from the commonwealth.

Driving without a license? Maybe a $75 fine. Definitely a $900 fee from Virginia.

As part of the plan to fund the annual $1 billion transportation package approved this year, state legislators endorsed a new set of "civil remedial fees" for all misdemeanor and felony traffic violations, such as speeding 20 mph above the limit, reckless driving and, in some cases, driving with faulty brakes. Drivers with points on their licenses -- a speeding ticket usually earns four points -- will be hit for $75 for every point above eight and $100 for having that many points in the first place.

The new fees will go into effect July 1, and defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges expect chaos. Court clerks fear having to deal with angry hordes learning about the fees for the first time at the payment window.

"I think that we will be overwhelmed," said Nancy L. Lake, clerk of the Fairfax County General District Court, which includes the busiest traffic court in the state. "We feel we're going to take a lot of flack."

The fees will be imposed only on Virginia residents. All defendants must pay the fines, but the "abuser fees," as Del. David B. Albo (R-Fairfax) calls them, are part of the state licensing fees and cannot be imposed on out-of-state drivers.

Standard traffic infractions, such as low-level speeding and running a stop sign, do not carry the fees. The state courts posted the fees and eligible offenses this month.

Albo and Del. Thomas D. Rust (R-Fairfax), who co-sponsored the fee legislation, project that $65 million to $120 million will be raised annually to cover costs of snow removal, pothole repair and grass-mowing. Money for Northern Virginia's congested roads had to come from somewhere, they reasoned, and new taxes were not going to fly in the GOP-controlled House of Delegates.

The people who will be caught up in the new fees say the first wave of chaos will hit in early August, when the first tickets issued under the new law arrive in courthouses.

Traffic court judges fear they will see a huge increase in trials, with defendants unwilling to plead guilty because they know they will face additional fees.

Prosecutors say that in addition to possibly handling more trials, judges might suspend fines they usually impose, knowing that a heavier civil fee awaits. The money from fines will go to county governments, which could then face a decline in revenue. Funds from the new fees will go to the state.
Defense attorneys say the new fees will unfairly burden the poor because they will not be able to pay them, will lose their licenses and possibly their jobs, and then will face tickets for unlicensed driving, which would lead to jail time.

Michael S. Davis, a veteran Fairfax defense attorney, said he plans to file a legal challenge to the fees the first time he encounters them. "If somebody from out of state does not have to pay the same price," Davis said, "I think there's clearly an equal-protection issue" under the U.S. Constitution.

Albo said he would agree with that view if the fee were imposed as criminal punishment. "But it's not," he said. "It's a variable registration fee based on the lousiness of your record. We're giving people with good driving records a reduction in their fee. And we can't charge a registration fee on people from New York flying through Virginia."

Lead-footed drivers should not hold their breath waiting for the legal challenge. Davis said it would have to plow through the state's administrative process before making it to the courts and would be followed by levels of appeals. It would take years.

The fees were included in a larger package passed by the General Assembly to try to address the burgeoning congestion across the state. When Albo and Rust submitted the fee proposals as legislation by themselves in previous years, they were shot down.

"My job as a delegate is to make people slow down and build some roads," Albo said. "This bill does both."

Rust and Albo said New Jersey imposes similar fees to great effect. New Jersey was "pretty convinced it improved safety on the roads," Rust said.

New Jersey calls the fees "surcharges" and raises about $130 million from them annually, Cathleen Lewis, state motor vehicle agency spokeswoman, said. The money is not specifically earmarked for transportation and has been collected since 1983. The number of points drivers have accrued has decreased since 1983, Lewis said, but there is no study linking the decrease directly to the surcharges. New Jersey charges all drivers, not just residents.

And most of New Jersey's surcharges are much smaller: $100 for driving without a license, compared with $900 in Virginia. But a first conviction for driving while intoxicated in New Jersey brings a $3,000 hit vs. $2,250 in Virginia.

In Virginia, the fee can be paid over three years. After the first third is paid at the courthouse, the other two are to be billed by the state Department of Motor Vehicles. DMV officials have not determined how that will work, a spokeswoman said.

Faced with the prospect of financially poorer drivers losing their licenses when they cannot pay a fee, judges might start suspending part or all of the original fines, Alexandria Commonwealth's Attorney Randolph S. Sengel said. The result "might be increased transportation funding offset by decreased general fund revenue," he said.

"For someone who's living near the poverty line, or even making $30, 000," said Fairfax public defender Todd G. Petit, fees of $1,000 or more might have "a significant impact," and failure to pay them might lead to losing a license, a job and income. "These appear to be punitive measures that are being hidden in civil fees. If we gave the judges discretion to do what is necessary and proportionate, then we can raise the money without disproportionately affecting the poor."

Lawyers said that more defendants will hire lawyers than before, that the lawyers will charge more money because the stakes are higher and that more cases will be appealed to circuit courts.

"It's basically the Lawyer Full Employment Act," cracked one Fairfax lawyer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he stands to benefit from the new law.

But, Albo said: "it's basically a voluntary tax. If you don't commit a crime on the streets, or run up a huge amount of points, you don't pay anything. We believe its main effect will be to get people to stop driving like maniacs."
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Old 06-27-2007, 10:48 AM   #2
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Hefty Fees in Store for Misbehaving Virginia Drivers

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...062201781.html


By Tom Jackman

Washington Post Staff Writer

Saturday, June 23, 2007; Page A01

Attention Virginians: The cost of bad driving is about to go up. Way up.

Say you are driving 78 mph on the Capital Beltway and a state trooper tickets you for "reckless driving -- speeding 20 mph over." You will probably be fined $200 by the judge. But then you will receive a new, additional $1,050 fine from the Old Dominion, payable in three convenient installments. So convenient that you must pay the first one immediately, at the courthouse.

First-time drunk driver? A $300 fine from the judge and a $2,250 fee from the commonwealth.

Driving without a license? Maybe a $75 fine. Definitely a $900 fee from Virginia.

As part of the plan to fund the annual $1 billion transportation package approved this year, state legislators endorsed a new set of "civil remedial fees" for all misdemeanor and felony traffic violations, such as speeding 20 mph above the limit, reckless driving and, in some cases, driving with faulty brakes. Drivers with points on their licenses -- a speeding ticket usually earns four points -- will be hit for $75 for every point above eight and $100 for having that many points in the first place.

The new fees will go into effect July 1, and defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges expect chaos. Court clerks fear having to deal with angry hordes learning about the fees for the first time at the payment window.

"I think that we will be overwhelmed," said Nancy L. Lake, clerk of the Fairfax County General District Court, which includes the busiest traffic court in the state. "We feel we're going to take a lot of flack."

The fees will be imposed only on Virginia residents. All defendants must pay the fines, but the "abuser fees," as Del. David B. Albo (R-Fairfax) calls them, are part of the state licensing fees and cannot be imposed on out-of-state drivers.

Standard traffic infractions, such as low-level speeding and running a stop sign, do not carry the fees. The state courts posted the fees and eligible offenses this month.

Albo and Del. Thomas D. Rust (R-Fairfax), who co-sponsored the fee legislation, project that $65 million to $120 million will be raised annually to cover costs of snow removal, pothole repair and grass-mowing. Money for Northern Virginia's congested roads had to come from somewhere, they reasoned, and new taxes were not going to fly in the GOP-controlled House of Delegates.

The people who will be caught up in the new fees say the first wave of chaos will hit in early August, when the first tickets issued under the new law arrive in courthouses.

Traffic court judges fear they will see a huge increase in trials, with defendants unwilling to plead guilty because they know they will face additional fees.

Prosecutors say that in addition to possibly handling more trials, judges might suspend fines they usually impose, knowing that a heavier civil fee awaits. The money from fines will go to county governments, which could then face a decline in revenue. Funds from the new fees will go to the state.
Defense attorneys say the new fees will unfairly burden the poor because they will not be able to pay them, will lose their licenses and possibly their jobs, and then will face tickets for unlicensed driving, which would lead to jail time.

Michael S. Davis, a veteran Fairfax defense attorney, said he plans to file a legal challenge to the fees the first time he encounters them. "If somebody from out of state does not have to pay the same price," Davis said, "I think there's clearly an equal-protection issue" under the U.S. Constitution.

Albo said he would agree with that view if the fee were imposed as criminal punishment. "But it's not," he said. "It's a variable registration fee based on the lousiness of your record. We're giving people with good driving records a reduction in their fee. And we can't charge a registration fee on people from New York flying through Virginia."

Lead-footed drivers should not hold their breath waiting for the legal challenge. Davis said it would have to plow through the state's administrative process before making it to the courts and would be followed by levels of appeals. It would take years.

The fees were included in a larger package passed by the General Assembly to try to address the burgeoning congestion across the state. When Albo and Rust submitted the fee proposals as legislation by themselves in previous years, they were shot down.

"My job as a delegate is to make people slow down and build some roads," Albo said. "This bill does both."

Rust and Albo said New Jersey imposes similar fees to great effect. New Jersey was "pretty convinced it improved safety on the roads," Rust said.

New Jersey calls the fees "surcharges" and raises about $130 million from them annually, Cathleen Lewis, state motor vehicle agency spokeswoman, said. The money is not specifically earmarked for transportation and has been collected since 1983. The number of points drivers have accrued has decreased since 1983, Lewis said, but there is no study linking the decrease directly to the surcharges. New Jersey charges all drivers, not just residents.

And most of New Jersey's surcharges are much smaller: $100 for driving without a license, compared with $900 in Virginia. But a first conviction for driving while intoxicated in New Jersey brings a $3,000 hit vs. $2,250 in Virginia.

In Virginia, the fee can be paid over three years. After the first third is paid at the courthouse, the other two are to be billed by the state Department of Motor Vehicles. DMV officials have not determined how that will work, a spokeswoman said.

Faced with the prospect of financially poorer drivers losing their licenses when they cannot pay a fee, judges might start suspending part or all of the original fines, Alexandria Commonwealth's Attorney Randolph S. Sengel said. The result "might be increased transportation funding offset by decreased general fund revenue," he said.

"For someone who's living near the poverty line, or even making $30, 000," said Fairfax public defender Todd G. Petit, fees of $1,000 or more might have "a significant impact," and failure to pay them might lead to losing a license, a job and income. "These appear to be punitive measures that are being hidden in civil fees. If we gave the judges discretion to do what is necessary and proportionate, then we can raise the money without disproportionately affecting the poor."

Lawyers said that more defendants will hire lawyers than before, that the lawyers will charge more money because the stakes are higher and that more cases will be appealed to circuit courts.

"It's basically the Lawyer Full Employment Act," cracked one Fairfax lawyer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he stands to benefit from the new law.

But, Albo said: "it's basically a voluntary tax. If you don't commit a crime on the streets, or run up a huge amount of points, you don't pay anything. We believe its main effect will be to get people to stop driving like maniacs."
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Old 06-27-2007, 12:41 PM   #3
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Steep fines, but I can't say I disagree with the approach. Too often I hear about taxes being levied to raise money for road improvements and other capital improvements but this seems to be a way to make the lawbreakers pay.

It's interesting to note that the high fines seem only to be imposed on those that really break the law. Drunk driving...driving without a license....reckless driving 20 mph over the limit. I can't say that I'm opposed to higher fines rather than a slap on the wrist for the offender.

If you can't pay the fine....don't do the crime
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Old 06-27-2007, 07:46 PM   #4
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More reason to be a good citizen and obey the law. I am a bit tired of people who whine and complain because they willfully break the law, get caught and then have to pay the consequences.

Rich or poor be good and you will have nothing to worry about.
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Old 07-03-2007, 09:10 AM   #5
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Equal Justice for all!



Libby is convicted and sentenced by a Jury of his Peers for impeding a Federal Investigation and Lying on the Stand. Sentenced to Jail for 30 months.



PRESIDENT BUSH takes away the Jail time.



Paris Hilton gets caught driving on a suspended License and goes to jail!
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Old 07-03-2007, 11:15 AM   #6
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Since Billy boy Clinton name has come up.


List of Clinton's Pardons

Since Bush is pardoning Libby I think that it would be interesting to see of all the people Bill Clinton pardon so we can get an idea of what Hillary will do.

Here is the link

http://www.usdoj.gov/pardon/clintonpardon_grants.htm
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Old 07-16-2007, 05:59 PM   #7
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It is my hope that the new law in Va goes to all states and I know
someone will say no way it is fair. I ask you to tell me about fair
when the highway today is all about ME. This is my road, my car and I will drive it at any speed and anyway I want because I want to. Who are you to drive the speed limit and hold me up. I will tailgate you until you get out of my way or pass you on the right to show you how to drive. The one and only way to teach this kind of driver is to hit their pocketbook because between their ears the is nothing there. Last week in Md three smart asses on motercycles were behind a pickup and one ran into the back. A women was driving with her husband on the passanger side. They pulled him our and beat him so bad he is in critical condition with
brain injuries and don't know if he will make it. Love the new law.
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Old 07-21-2007, 12:12 PM   #8
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Small Town in VA Refuses to Charge New Massive Fines (except DUI)

"This is one way for us to make a stand to tell the General Assembly and the governor we are not going to participate in robbing our citizens to pay for projects when they are not going to be honest enough to just raise taxes."


This is my little town of 10,000! I'm so excited! With the exception of the drunk driving offenses, Front Royal has refused to charge people for the new fines.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...002234_pf.html

Front Royal May Reject Va. Fees for 'Abusive Drivers'
By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 21, 2007; B01

RICHMOND, July 20 -- The small town of Front Royal, in the foothills of the Shenandoahs, is taking on what town leaders and many others consider to be the scourge of Virginia.

The council is scheduled to vote Monday on a resolution that would prevent its police officers from enforcing Virginia's "abusive driving" fees.

If it's approved, the measure, sponsored by council member Thomas Sayre (R), could set up a legal fight over whether Virginia's local jurisdictions have to participate in the state effort to collect the fees to help pay for transportation improvements.

Since the fees went into effect July 1, more than 130,000 people have signed an online petition demanding that legislators repeal the measures. The fees range from $900 to $3,000 and apply to driving infractions that rise to the felony or misdemeanor level.

But the fees have become so unpopular that some Front Royal council members don't want their 10-member police force to be associated with them.

For decades, Virginia municipalities have had the right to make traffic offenses a local, instead of a state, charge. Front Royal, like many small towns, has embraced the authority as a way to collect revenue from traffic offenses.

Sayre says the fees are unfair to the town's 14,000 residents and motorists who pass through Front Royal's two-lane highways.

"I am in court daily, and I see people all the time who cannot afford to pay normal court costs and fines, so they are not going to be able to afford this," said Sayre, a lawyer who also is vice chairman of the Warren County Republican Party. "The governor and the legislature may not be willing to eliminate the civil remedial fines, but we are. Not in our town."

Under the Front Royal proposal, people cited for driving under the influence would still be subject to the state fees. But those charged with certain lesser offenses, such as reckless driving or driving without a license, would not have to pay. The resolution would apply only to tickets written by the Front Royal police. Anyone charged by the Warren County sheriff or the Virginia State Police, which do not come under town control, would still have to pay.

House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith (R-Salem) noted that the recently approved transportation bill, which imposed the fees, says the law applies to state drunken driving and reckless driving ordinances as well as "substantially similar local ordinances." The fees are paid out over three years, so someone charged with a crime that warrants a fee, such as driving 20 mph over the speed limit or recklessly causing an accident, will pay the District Court the first year. The Department of Motor Vehicles collects the fees the second and third years.

"The town may not collect it, but they are going to have to notify DMV, and DMV will collect it," Griffith said.

But Sayre says Front Royal officials would urge local clerks of court to not cooperate with the DMV.

"By amending our town code, the court clerks are not going to collect the fee initially, so there will be nothing to put into [the DMV] computer," Sayre said.

News of the town resolution was first reported yesterday by the Warren County Report.

Council member Bret Hrbek, a Republican, predicts the measure will pass the six-member council.

"This law is a tax increase to help fund road projects, which may be good projects, but if we are going to have a tax increase, we should have a tax increase. We shouldn't use fines to do it," Hrbek said. "This is one way for us to make a stand to tell the General Assembly and the governor we are not going to participate in robbing our citizens to pay for projects when they are not going to be honest enough to just raise taxes."

On Thursday, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) and House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) held a news conference to defend the fees, saying they are vital to improving highway safety and raising $65 million annually to fund transportation.

The fees were designed as a partial substitute for a statewide tax increase, which the Republican-controlled House of Delegates opposed.

Kaine and Howell noted that the fees do not apply to common traffic infractions, such as running a red light, so most motorists do not have to worry about the fees. They have the support of AAA and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

"This really goes for serious driving offenses," Kaine said. "We have a significant problem with unsafe drivers in Virginia."

A Kaine spokesman declined to comment Friday on Sayre's bill, referring all questions to Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell (R).

J. Tucker Martin, a McDonnell spokesman, said his office is confident Front Royal cannot opt out of the abusive-driving fees.

"While we have not seen the specifics of the proposal, we do not believe a locality can opt out of a statewide provision," Martin said.

Mark Flynn, director of legal services for the Virginia Municipal League, said his organization plans to study the matter.

Even if Front Royal ultimately loses in court, Town Attorney Tom Robinette says the fight will have been worth it.

"I think by passing this, we are telling them we don't want this in our town code, which is something we are authorized to say," Robinette said. "We are telling them what we think of" their fees.

Staff writers Arianne Aryanpur, Christy Goodman and Tom Jackman contributed to this report.
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Old 07-28-2007, 03:00 AM   #9
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The state of Virgina just needs to tell the town of Front Royal what it thinks of this by cutting off any state funding it recieves. I like the fees, I'll vote for them in a heart beat here if we can get them here in Oregon.
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Old 08-02-2007, 04:34 AM   #10
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I travel from Maryland to DC every day along Route 50. I see many agressive drivers, people that tailgate, people that can't merge into traffic and people that just can't drive. They abuse the HOV lanes (2 or more people in a vehicle) and make a mockery of the police. When I get into DC I see most of the above and total disregard for red lights unless they are equiped with a camera. These people should pay the high fines and be removed from the highways.
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