Posts belonging to Category abusive driver fees



“Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead!”

Well, almost, from the AP via NBC4: Va. Senate Passes Fees Repeal, Resolves Rebate Flap:

The Virginia Senate passed a bill to repeal high fees on bad drivers after ending an impasse over how to rebate fees already assessed and collected.

Wednesday’s 39-0 vote came after Republican Sen. Kenneth Stolle and Democrats agreed to allow those ordered to pay the fines to petition courts to vacate the order.

Once the order is set aside, the state will reimburse the amount paid.

Stolle’s amendment also prevents the Department of Motor Vehicles from withholding driving privileges for failure to pay any fees not yet collected.

Partisan wrangling over how to refund the fees had held up the legislation since last week.

The bill now heads to the House of Delegates.

I’m guessing the phrase “equal protection” doesn’t mean anything to you… Part 13, I’m getting sick of writing about this…

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch: ‘Rational basis’ for driver law at issue:

Was the General Assembly rational when it exempted residents of other states from Virginia’s new and controversial driver-fees statute?

Obvious jokes aside, both the lawyers and the judge homed in on that issue yesterday in the Richmond Circuit Court appeal case that challenges the constitutionality of the driver law.

Judge Walter Stout heard brief arguments from Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael N. Herring, who defended the law, and from lawyer N. Barton Chucker, who is representing a traffic-court defendant.

(Anyone know if Walter Stout is related to a Neil Stout of Stout, Billy, & Seli?)

The “civil remedial fees” statute is meant to generate revenue from dangerous drivers — people convicted in court of certain traffic violations ranging from drunken driving to manslaughter.

At least they’re honest, I wonder what the average speed of the legislators is on I-95. I sure hope it isn’t about 80 MPH…

Chucker argued that the law is unconstitutional on due-process grounds because it applies only to Virginia residents and exempts others who drive in the state.

But the law could pass constitutional muster if the assembly had a “rational basis” for deciding the fees would be imposed only on Virginia residents. Proponents of the law as written say the fees would be too difficult and costly to collect from people in other states.

Yesterday, Stout wondered: “Isn’t the cost of collecting from out-of-state drivers a rational basis for making the distinction [between Virginia residents and others]?”

If you’re an out-of-state driver and you fail to pay your fine (not fee) when found guilty, your license will be suspended by your state; how much does that cost?

He decided he will make his ruling later.

Herring said he shares some of Chucker’s concerns about the law. “As an officer of the court and commonwealth’s attorney, I think the statute as it stands is constitutional,” Herring said. “It could be improved.”

[…]

Chucker represents Joseph C. Fields, on whom the law would impose a $1,050 driver fee for his reckless-driving conviction in Richmond General District Court.

Judge Thomas O. Jones of Richmond General District Court convicted Fields on July 7 and fined him $100 plus court costs. Chucker appealed the automatic driver fee, which was to be paid in three equal annual installments.

At a hearing Aug. 3, Jones sided with Chucker when he ruled that the law is unconstitutional.

“For me, it’s an absolute no-brainer,” Jones said from the bench.

Apparently, not for everyone else.

Herring, noting that every commonwealth’s attorney is obligated to defend state laws in court, appealed the case.

It’s pretty ironic that he had to note that.

I’m guessing the phrase “equal protection” doesn’t mean anything to you… Part 12, the privileged class

From The Washington Post: Va. Bad-Driver Fees Could Snag Officials [emphasis mine]:

When Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and House Speaker William J. Howell were mulling over what sort of motorists to target with the state’s new abusive-driver fees, they could have drawn on experience: their own run-ins with the law.

In 1997 and 2001, Kaine (D) was ticketed for going 72 and 73 mph in 55 mph zones, court records show. Another three and two miles per hour would have brought charges of reckless driving for going 20 over the speed limit, an offense that now comes with a mandatory $1,050 fee in addition to judge-imposed penalties.

The speaker’s foot appears to have a bit more lead in it. In 2002, Howell (R-Stafford) was ticketed for reckless driving, charged with going 75 mph on a Caroline County road, although the charge was reduced to simple speeding — 74 in a 55 mph zone — in court, he confirmed.

Awfully convenient…

Kaine and Howell acknowledged speeding but said the offenses do not make them abusive drivers.

Of course not.

Within the past year, House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith (R-Salem) and House Republican Caucus chairman Terry G. Kilgore (Scott) received speeding tickets in Rockbridge County for driving 80 in a 65 mph zone — one mile per hour short of a reckless-driving charge, had they exceeded 80mph. Their records show each has an additional speeding violation.

A review of the driving histories of the state’s leading lawmakers and those from Northern Virginia shows that they are just as susceptible, if not more so, to the kind of behind-the-wheel behavior that they aimed to curb with the new fees, which have been widely derided since they took effect July 1.

Their driving records were gathered from local courts and personal interviews and may not represent lawmakers’ entire driving records.

[…]

But if some of the state’s leading lawmakers — as well as several backbenchers — qualify, just who are the so-called abusive drivers?

“Just because you get one [ticket for going] 20 miles over, you may not be an abusive driver,” Kilgore said. “We probably need to look at that.”

Oh, now you’re going to look at it, how considerate.

At a news conference last week, Howell and other Republican leaders said that state police issued 23 percent fewer reckless driving violations and 11 percent fewer speeding tickets in July than in July 2006 — saying this is evidence that the fees are making motorists slow down. At the same time, Republicans called for changes to the legislation that would exempt some offenses — including certain types of reckless driving — from the hefty fees.

You think maybe the deputies, troopers, and officers may not be writing as many reckless driving tickets because they don’t want to stick the person with a $1,050 “fee”?

Of course, you’ll be changing the law after the election, instead of calling for a special session, how convenient.

[…]

Del. Vivian E. Watts (D-Fairfax) was convicted of reckless driving in 1998 for going 20 mph over the limit. Del. Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria) paid a fine for driving 77 in a 55 mph zone in 2000, although he was charged only with speeding. Ebbin was charged with reckless driving in 2003, but that case was dropped by the prosecution, according to court records.

Del. Thomas Davis Rust (R-Fairfax), who proposed the fees in 2005, was caught speeding in 1996, going 70 in a 55 mph zone. Del. Albert C. Eisenberg (D-Arlington) got a ticket for doing 73 in a 55 mph zone in 2000, and Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr. (R-Winchester) was stopped for going 71 in a 55 mph zone in 1994. In 1990, Sen. Janet D. Howell (D-Fairfax) received a ticket for driving 70 to 74 mph where the speed limit was 55. Del. Mark D. Sickles (D-Fairfax) was ticketed for going 50 to 54 in a 35 mph zone in 1992.

[…]

Nonetheless, Ault said he thinks the fees are unfair partly because lawmakers might receive special treatment in court, given their stature in the commonwealth.

“Legislators have connections within the court system — they have legal connections, they have name recognition,” Ault said. “Just because these legislators can get their tickets reduced doesn’t mean the average Virginia citizen can.”

You mean, like being the ones that elect the judges for General District court?

I’m guessing the phrase “equal protection” doesn’t mean anything to you… Part 11, the Lawyer Full Employment Act

As mentioned by a lawyer previously, it’s the Lawyer Full Employment Act.

From The Washington Post: Armed With Checkbooks and Excuses, First Casualties of Va. Fees Go to Court [emphasis mine]:

Those lucky enough to live out of state or to have been pulled over before the fees went into effect July 1 — the “magic date,” as one judge called it — escaped the penalties, as did many who hired attorneys who were able to argue for lesser charges or continuances.

[…]

Norquest, who works for Fairfax County Family Services, also said she did not see the point of hiring a lawyer at a cost of hundreds or thousands of dollars. “You’re either paying for one or you’re paying for the other,” she said.

For those who didn’t know, Delegate David B. Albo (R-Fairfax), one of the sponsors of the bill, is a lawyer, and co-founder of a law firm that specializes in the defense of traffic offenses. No conflict of interest there, eh?

Hat tip: Matt “threat to democracy” Drudge

I’m guessing the phrase “equal protection” doesn’t mean anything to you… Part 10, the pièce de résistance

From the AP via NBC 4 in Washington, D.C.: Va. Driver Fees Snag Woman In Labor [emphasis mine]:

Jessica Hodges was on her way to the hospital with labor pains when she got stopped for speeding. She thought she had a pretty good excuse, but the law didn’t see it that way.

The 26-year-old bank teller from Hodges became one of the first people slapped with Virginia’s new “abusive driver” fees. She was ordered to pay $1,050 on top of a $100 fine and court costs.

The new fees were passed by the General Assembly in the spring as part of a package aimed at funding transportation projects. The idea was to raise money by targeting those who commit severe traffic offenses.

But the fees have sparked widespread outrage.

Hodges said she has no regrets about speeding on July 3. She said having a baby is more important than staying within the speed limit.

Her labor pains that day turned out to be a false alarm, and daughter Alessandra was born July 19.

Let’s see, a woman having labor pains gets a reckless driving ticket for going 57 mph in a 35 mph zone, along with failure to report a change of address for her operator’s license, gets $188 in fines and court costs, and has to pay $1,050 in “abusive driver’s fee”.

Damn fine job there, Officer (or Deputy, or Trooper) J. R. Vesper, damn fine job Fairfax County Police Department (or Sheriff’s Office, or Virginia State Police), and damn fine job Virginia General Assembly.

I’m guessing the phrase “equal protection” doesn’t mean anything to you… Part 9

From NBC 4 in Washington, D.C.: Abusive Driver Fees Face Tough Opposition [emphasis mine]:

A Navy veteran who was ticketed for reckless driving on his way to reserve duty at the Pentagon is suing state of Virginia over its abuser fee program.

Charles Mason is asking an Arlington General District Court judge to declare the civil remedial fees unconstitutional. The fees ranging from $750 to $3,000 for various serious driving offenses were enacted as a funding source for new transportation projects.

Courts in Henrico County and Richmond have already ruled the fees unconstitutional, but the rulings apply only in those jurisdictions.

Mason was stopped July 8 on Interstate 395 for driving 20 miles an hour over the speed limit. He faces a $1,050 civil remedial fee if convicted of reckless driving.

Mason has a clean driving record and no criminal record. One state lawmaker said that had Mason contested the ticket in court, he wouldn’t be convicted of reckless driving.

He shouldn’t have to contest it in court, you weasel (who they don’t even bother naming).

[…]

Defense attorney Craig Cooley argues that legislators had no rational basis for exempting out-of-state drivers from paying fees as high as $3,000. The fees are assessed on Virginia drivers only, in addition to fines and possible jail time.

Prosecutors, however, argue lawmakers did have a rationale for passing the legislation this year. Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Duncan Reid says Virginians use their roads more than non-residents, they benefit more from the roads and it’s impractical or almost impossible to collect the new fees from non-residents.

Wait a second, I thought the fees were designed to stop bad driving, and that it was impossible (not “almost impossible”) to collect on out of state drivers?

Can you please make up your mind on what lie you’re going to use?

Virginia state Sen. Edd Houck said he wants the state’s new abusive driver fee laws to be stopped and refunds be paid to those who paid any portion of a fee.

[…]

Houck will introduce the repeal bill in the 2008 session or in special session, if one is called.

At least someone is offering to do something to fix this and not BS around.

I’m guessing the phrase “equal protection” doesn’t mean anything to you… Part 8

I need to think of another title, from the Richmond Times-Dispatch: No ruling in Henrico driver-fee case [emphasis mine]:

A Henrico County Circuit Court judge today heard arguments but did not rule on the legality of Virginia’s much-debated new law covering abusive driver fees.

The case ended up in the court of Circuit Judge L.A. Harris Jr. after a Henrico General District Court judge last week ruled the law unconstitutional because it has no provision for Virginia collecting fees for various driving infractions from out-of-state residents. As passed by the 2007 General Assembly, the measure applies only to Virginia drivers.

This morning, Harris heard arguments and took written briefs from both sides in the case of Anthony Price, who was arrested in Henrico for driving without a license July 2, the day after the new Virginia law took effect.

Harris asked a number of questions about Virginia’s law applying only to residents of the state. The judge said Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Texas also have abusive-driver fee programs but require non-residents to pay the fees as well.

Harris said he would try to rule on the matter within a week.

What a bunch of cowards/sell outs.

From the AP via Fredericksburg.com: Kaine alliance with GOP leaders strained as 2nd court voids fees [emphasis mine]:

A second Virginia court ruled new surcharges on bad drivers unconstitutional Friday because nonresidents don’t pay them.

At the same time, cracks began to show in a high-level bipartisan alliance that has defended the law against a statewide public outcry against it.

One day after a judge in Henrico County became the first to rule that the out-of-state exemption violates the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection under the law, a Richmond General District Court did the same.

The decisions are binding only in the two localities, and appeals of both decisions are pending in circuit courts next week. More constitutional challenges are expected to be filed in other localities next week.

[…]

With the law under attack in court, strains became evident within the rare alliance between Democratic Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and Republican legislative leaders in support of the transportation funding law.

Kaine appeared last month with House Speaker William J. Howell and other top House and Senate Republicans in a bipartisan show of unity for the law amid growing calls for its immediate repeal. In defending the embattled law, the governor and the GOP leaders called it a product of bipartisan compromise.

Since then, Kaine has publicly discussed the prospect of reimbursement for people who have paid the fees when lawmakers consider the law’s flaws after the 2008 General Assembly convenes in January.

Howell, in a three-paragraph statement issued Thursday in response to the Henrico court ruling, labeled the unpopular nonresident exemption “the Gov.’s amendment.”

The same day, his office sent e-mails to House Republicans offering guidance on how to pen letters to newspaper editors in which they defend the law by noting in part that “… Gov. Kaine amended the legislation by removing out-of-state drivers from the abusive driver fees.”

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the memo containing the drafts.

Publicly, each side denied targeting the other for blame or that their statements mean they are any less confident in the measure.

“We’re talking back-and-forth. There’s no distancing from them (the governor’s office) on those points,” said G. Paul Nardo, the speaker’s chief adviser.

Kaine and Howell remain united in opposing a special legislative session to remedy or repeal the fees and prefer to address the problems next year, said Kaine’s press secretary, Kevin Hall.

The wording of Howell’s statement on Thursday, however, was not lost on Kaine or his advisers.

“You can call it whatever you want. It was a bipartisan effort,” Hall said.

But with elections for all 140 House and Senate seats just three months away and GOP legislative control at stake, both acknowledged partisan interpretations are inevitable.

“It’s the miserable, hot summer of an election year,” Hall lamented.

Nardo said the letters-to-the-editor templates for House GOP Caucus members and their supporters was intended to counter attacks from House Democratic leaders Brian J. Moran and Ward L. Armstrong who are blaming Howell, who was the bill’s sponsor, and the GOP for the law.

“They had 87 percent of (House) Democrats supporting the fees in April, and now they’re speaking out against it?” Nardo said. “The point was to remind all these people of who voted for it.

“This is a political year and we have political pressures,” he said.

The fees are part of the nearly $1 billion-a-year transportation funding package passed this year. The package, containing increases in some annual fees and regional tax increases in northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, was the initiative of House and Senate Republicans. The bill was sent to Kaine in February on a 64-34 vote in the House with 28 of the 40 House Democrats voting no.

Kaine rewrote the bill and, in the process, deleted a 14-word clause that imposed the fee on nonresidents. Kaine and GOP leaders agreed the fees could not be enforced outside Virginia. In April, legislators overwhelmingly approved Kaine’s amendments, with only five Democrats voting no.

Why is it, that you are now blaming Kaine for the bill when you voted for it repeatedly? Why is it, that you still refuse to support a special session to fix the problem and want to blame it on Kaine? As much I like to blame Kaine for this, you are the heads of the legislature and you refuse to do anything about it.

Have fun in November. Hope that “bipartisan compromise” was worth it.

I’m guessing the phrase “equal protection” doesn’t mean anything to you… Part 7

Out of Star Wars titles, from NBC 4 in Washington, D.C.: Judge Strikes Down Va. Abusive Driver Fees [emphasis mine]:

A Henrico County judge declared the state’s new abusive driver fees unconstitutional on Thursday.

General District Court Judge Archie Yeatts issued the ruling in the case of Anthony Price, who was facing his fifth charge of driving on a suspended license.

With his order, Yeatts instructed Henrico General District Court clerks not to collect civil remedial fees that can reach $1,000 or more for certain driving offenses.

The ruling is binding only in Henrico County but is being immediately appealed to Circuit Court and could eventually reach the Virginia Supreme Court.

The fees have prompted protests from Virginians outraged that they apply only to state residents. Price’s lawyers argued at a hearing last week that forcing him to pay $750 in fees that don’t apply to people who live outside Virginia violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.

Since the fees took effect July 1, critics have called for their immediate repeal in a special legislative session. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine opposes a special session but has suggested legislators revisit the law in the regular session that begins in January.

Kaine said in a statement released Thursday that whether the courts find the law constitutional, he is “committed to addressing the concerns Virginians have raised about this law.”

Then you aren’t committed to addressing the concerns of Virginians, you liar.

I’m guessing the phrase “equal protection” doesn’t mean anything to you… Part 6

Return of the Jedi, from Fredericksburg.com: Kaine says abusive driver reimbursements are ’08 option [emphasis wholly mine]:

Amid ebbing legislative support for the state’s new abusive driver fees, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said Friday that reimbursing those who have paid them is an option the General Assembly can consider in 2008.

“We have a chance to fix it,” the Democratic governor told reporters.

“Look, we might have the ability to do reimbursements,” he said. “I’m not going to commit to that, but if there’s a decision made by the legislature, that’s one option they could consider.”

Virginians statewide have responded with outrage to the “civil remedial fees” payable in three annual installments that can range from $750 for driving with a suspended license to $3,000 for a driving-related felony. Nonresidents are exempt from the fees.

The possibility of refunds is a trade-off that may help Kaine and other supporters of the fees resist calls for a special legislative session to repeal the law this year. Kaine favors mending its flaws after the regular 2008 legislature convenes in January.

Refunds are possible, Kaine said, because the revenue from the fees has not been budgeted.

“The dollars from the abuser fees were not scheduled to be used for another year-and-a-half,” he said. Besides refunds, legislators could decide to suspend payment of the second and third installments of the fees, he said.

[…]

Kaine’s remarks came one day after Sen. Charles J. Colgan called for not only repealing the prohibitive surcharges Virginia began imposing on its worst drivers July 1, but refunding the fees to all who have paid them.

“I’ve thought this was a lousy bill all along,” Colgan, D-Prince William, said in an interview Friday. He voted against it consistently, but supported the amended version the House and Senate accepted in April.

Then you didn’t vote against it consistently, you moron.

Colgan and other legislative Democrats have parted with Kaine over the abusive driver provisions in the past three weeks. Unlike many of them, Colgan does not favor a special legislative session this year.

In a news conference with House and Senate Republican leaders last week, Kaine resisted growing calls for a special session to repeal the bill, asking for more time to study the effectiveness of the fees in reducing traffic accidents and dangerous driving.

In addition to political opposition to the fees, the first effort to have courts declare them unconstitutional got on track Thursday. A Henrico County General District Court is expected to render the first ruling on the law by Aug. 2, the first step toward a state Supreme Court decision.

Virginia modeled its penalties against egregious driving on those already in effect in Michigan and New Jersey. But there is no data in either of those states that conclusively demonstrates that roads became safer as a result.

Kaine on Friday cited unspecified “anecdotal evidence” since July 1 that he said suggests the fees are working.

Uh, Kaine can you open your mouth without removing any doubt that you’re an idiot? What “anecdotal evidence”? Do I have to file a freedom of information act (FOIA) request for it?

I have a question, Governor, are you going to pay interest for the reimbursements? How much will it cost to reimburse people in administrative fees for the original collection and then reimbursement?

You sir, are a bold face liar, you have not intention of repelling the law, otherwise, you would have requested a special session. You’re hoping that people forget completely about by January. I, for one, won’t have.

Remember this crap in November people.


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