Posts belonging to Category abusive driver fees



I’m guessing the phrase “equal protection” doesn’t mean anything to you… Part 5

The Empire Strikes Back, or something, from The Washington Post: Va. Enacted Bad-Driver Fees Despite Red Flags [emphasis wholly mine]:

Virginia lawmakers imposed steep new fees on bad drivers this year despite warning signs from states with similar programs that they cause a surge in unlicensed motorists and have crippling effects on the poor.

The licenses of tens of thousands of motorists in New Jersey and Michigan have been suspended because they cannot afford the fees, and little evidence has emerged that such fines improve highway safety, according to state officials and studies.

Numerous lawmakers, judges and social activists in both states have sought to either repeal the fees or make major changes in how they are collected. But once the programs are implemented, they are difficult to get rid of, because state lawmakers are unwilling to give up the revenue they raise, judges and lawmakers said.

Which is why Kaine and those coward Republicans refuse to have a special session to do anything about them.

[…]

Lawmakers predicted that the measures, in effect since July 1, would improve highway safety and raise $65 million a year, to be used for new road and rail projects. On Monday, however, Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William) joined a growing list of legislators calling for repeal, saying the measures are “beyond repair.”

But you were supporting them a couple weeks ago, are you saying you didn’t read the legislation you voted on, Mr. Lingamfelter?

At a news conference last week defending the fees, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) and House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) said they had no information to suggest that there were problems in states that use such fees.

Yeah, I bet, you weasels.

When Buhl heard that Virginia lawmakers were considering the fees last year, he e-mailed all 140 legislators, explaining why he thought the program was a failure in Michigan, which began assessing the fees in 2003. No one responded, Buhl said.

Officials in Michigan and New Jersey say Virginians should brace for problems, including clogged courts and the prospect of thousands of residents having to choose between keeping their licenses and paying their bills.

[…]

Under pressure to repeal the fees, the state [New Jersey] commissioned a study last year that found that although only 16 percent of residents live in low-income areas, those neighborhoods house nearly 40 percent of the people whose licenses have been suspended for failure to pay fees and fines.

[…]

Cathleen Lewis, a New Jersey motor vehicle agency spokeswoman, said there is no way to determine whether the fees “conclusively impact highway safety.”

In Michigan, traffic fatalities declined 12 percent from 2003 to 2005, compared with a 2.2 percent increase nationwide during that period, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A spokesman for the Michigan State Police said it is too early to tell whether the decline can be attributed to the fees.

[…]

In Virginia, Henry County Commonwealth’s Attorney Bob Bushnell said state prosecutors are bracing for similar problems.

“The way this thing works out, it is going to have an absolutely ruinous effect on financially challenged Virginians,” he said. “To my knowledge, no one from the police was consulted. We weren’t consulted. The court clerks weren’t consulted. Had it come up, I think the General Assembly would have been aware of all kinds of concerns from Virginians about the unanticipated downside to this program.”

Well, it’s nice to see the Republicans are going to lose the General Assembly this year (note the sarcasm). However, it might be worth it since Kaine has just Gilmored himself.

Hat tip: Overlawyered

I’m guessing the phrase “equal protection” doesn’t mean anything to you… Part 4

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch: Henrico judge to rule on driving-offense fees:

A Henrico judge said he will issue an opinion next Thursday on whether the state’s new fee system for traffic infractions should be found unconstitutional.

In an unusual proceeding that lasted almost an hour, Henrico General District Judge Archer L. Yeatts III said he will decide in a written opinion whether a 23-year-old Henrico man facing his fifth offense for driving without a license should be subject to some $700 in fees in addition to court costs and fines.

Anthony O. Price pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge today and Yeatts found him guilty. But Yeatts said he wants more time to mull over arguments in the case about the fees.

The fee structure, which went into effect July 1, is expected to pump some $60 million into state highway funds. But the fees do not apply to out-of-state drivers. Price’s lawyers argue that the law is in violation of equal-protection guarantees in the Constitution.

“There’s no reason why out-of-state drivers should be any less subject to the fees than Virginia drivers,” said Esther Windmueller, one of Price’s lawyers.

Windmueller said multiple opinions are likely on the issue from courts across Virginia as the fees begin to come into play in court proceedings.

Resolution will have to come from the General Assembly or state Supreme Court, meaning that thousands off drivers likely will have to pay the fees before it is clear they are legal.

The saga continues…

I’m guessing the phrase “equal protection” doesn’t mean anything to you… Part 3

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch: Big fines for bad drivers tested:

A courtroom assault yesterday on the state’s new fees for traffic offenses fizzled in a cloud of legal briefs and a no-show.

After a Henrico County judge politely said he didn’t have the authority to address the issue, a Henrico man portrayed as a test case to overthrow the civil remedial fees failed to show up for his court appearance.

“Is Anthony Price here? Anthony Price?” defense lawyer Esther Windmueller asked unsuccessfully, scanning a General District courtroom.

General District Judge Archer L. Yeatts III, who had less than an hour earlier refused to rule on the constitutional merits of the fees, rescheduled Price’s case for Aug. 23 and moved on to a reckless driving case.

That left Windmueller suggesting to reporters that she might have to troll the hallways of the Henrico Courts building for a new plaintiff.

[…]

The fees, passed by the legislature this year, are intended to generate more than $60 million toward state road funds. So far they have mostly generated fever-pitch public opposition — in large part because out-of-state drivers aren’t subject to the ramped-up fines.

[…]

In Richmond traffic court yesterday morning, clerks were marveling at the city’s first instance of a traffic offense that invoked the costly fee structure.

A July 1, noontime stop on Lee Bridge had produced charges of reckless driving and no valid driver’s license for a man court papers identified as Rolando Reyes.

“This was our first one,” said Irving C. Wright, clerk of the Richmond General District Court’s traffic division.

Yesterday, Reyes saw the reckless driving charge reduced to speeding but saw his costs explode.

Instead of being limited to fines and court costs of $317, Reyes had to pay $617 with the addition of the new $300 penalty fee.

And he’ll owe $600 more in coming months in two $300 installments, bringing the total to $1,217.

Had Reyes not had the reckless driving charge reduced, he could have been looking at a total of more than $2,200.

[…]

Besides the fact that out-of-state offenders don’t face the extra penalties, critics say, the fees most severely affect low-income traffic offenders, and collection efforts are expected to clog the courts and increase the number of cumbersome cases that involve defense lawyers.

“People will get lawyers hoping they can reduce the charges,” said Henrico General District Court Clerk Lawrence G. Sprader.

The state attorney general’s office argued to Yeatts yesterday that only a higher court can block the fees. Yeatts agreed, saying that a legal theory of seeking to bar the clerk’s office from collecting the fees is improper.

“The judge imposes the fee,” said Yeatts, noting that the judges control the actions of the clerk.

Windmueller said she and co-counsel Craig S. Cooley will likely take the case to the higher court, the county’s Circuit Court, before the end of the week. Traffic cases from the lower court that are subject to the fees are likely to reach circuit courts across the state, also, as the cases are appealed. That would produce scores of opportunities to challenge the law, lawyers familiar with traffic cases said yesterday.

[…]

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has said he favors waiting for the regular session in January to make the fee structure more equitable.

If there’s a problem Governor, why wait?

Again, from the Richmond Times-Dispatch [photo credit: Virginia House of Delegates]: Delegate does U-turn, now opposes high fees:

Scott Lingamfelter Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Prince William, now says he opposes increased fees on bad drivers.

Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Prince William, who 12 days ago defended unsafe-driver fees, now says they should be repealed.

[…]

Lingamfelter declined to say whether the General Assembly should be called back into special session to repeal the bill. That is up to the leadership, he said, but if he came back to Richmond, he would vote for repeal.

Lingamfelter said the bill is “at best complicated.” It also should apply to all drivers, not just Virginians, he added. In addition, he said the fees should be focussed [sic] on curbing bad driving, not on repairing roads.

Twelve days ago, Lingamfelter wrote an op-ed article in which he defended the fees, saying only reckless drivers should be disturbed by them.

The House Democratic Caucus issued a news release yesterday calling Lingamfelter “flip-flop Scott.”

“He saw his support for the abusive-driving tax that exempts out-of-state drivers as hurting him politically, so he put political expediency above principle,” caucus spokesman Mark Bergman said.

A Democrat, William Day of Prince William, is opposing Lingamfelter in November.

Lingamfelter said “real leaders listen, learn and act. They do not name-call, which is what the Democrats do.”

So you admit you’re not a “real leader”? You appear to have listened and learned but where is your act? You’re sitting on your fat ass complaining. Why do you refuse to call for a special session? If there’s a problem Delegate, why wait?

Again, from the Richmond Times-Dispatch: Driver fees about to be tested in court:

An effort to stop Virginia’s new special fees for traffic offenses great and small will get another day in a Henrico County court this morning. Anthony Price has been found.

A legal team had said Tuesday that Price would serve as an important test case to overthrow the fees as unconstitutional. But Price, who lives in Henrico, didn’t show up for court. That left his lawyers, a judge, and a gaggle of media with no case, no ruling and no story.

But Price, located yesterday by a Times-Dispatch reporter, said that he believed his court date was today and he was unaware that a high-powered legal team was ready to defend him.

“Who?” Price said yesterday when asked if he’d been contacted by prominent trial lawyers Craig S. Cooley and Esther Windmueller.

Windmueller said her efforts to contact Price about court dates and her representation likely got lost in the mail.

[…]

Price got in touch with the lawyers yesterday, and Windmueller said he would appear at a General District Court hearing this morning.

Price is facing his fifth charge of driving on a suspended license. If convicted today, he faces $750 in penalty fees in addition to fines and court costs. He referred questions about his driving history to his lawyers.

But Price’s conviction, which his lawyers said they would appeal, would set in motion an effort to end the fees statewide.

A Henrico General District Court judge on Tuesday refused to consider legal arguments that the fees were unconstitutional because the motions were brought before the court independent of a defendant being charged with one of the offenses.

But Price does face a traffic charge affected by the new fees. If the judge rules that the fees are unconstitutional, the ruling will likely be appealed by the state.

The special fees went into effect July 1 and are just beginning to reach traffic courts. They apply to dozens of traffic infractions, from manslaughter to a failed turn signal. They have outraged tens of thousands of drivers.

[…]

A key constitutional issue centers on the fact that the higher fees do not apply to out-of-state drivers, even when they commit the same driving offenses as a Virginian.

One lawyer said yesterday that she would raise the argument that a person from another country, whether in Virginia illegally or on a visa, should not have to pay the fee, either.

The fees range from $3,000 for more-serious crimes such as vehicular manslaughter and felony unauthorized use of a motor vehicle to $900 for having below-standard tires or failing to wear a seat belt while operating a school bus, according to guidelines published by the state Supreme Court.

For now I give a reprieve for lawyers.

I’m guessing the phrase “equal protection” doesn’t mean anything to you… Part 2

See previous article

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch: Kaine, GOP united on traffic fines:

Virginians will have to put up with new, stiff fines for bad drivers at least until early next year.

[…]

They’re now immune because Kaine and lawmakers this year agreed the fines would be difficult to collect from non-Virginians — a feature of which some legislators said they were unaware.

Read the legislation I’m voting on? Parish the thought!

“Being for driver safety is a good thing,” said Kaine. “We need to study it in a deliberate way before we rush into it.”

What the hell kind of line is that? Is someone going to say they’re for bad driver safety? I’m sure these fines are going to slow people down on I-95.

Kaine and Howell, accompanied by transportation and safety advocates as well as the Republican majority leaders of the House and Virginia Senate, emphasized that Virginians need not fear the controversial fines if they drive safely.

Here’s hoping all of you get tickets, you corrupt asses.

Howell and Senate Majority Leader Walter A. Stosch, R-Henrico, suggested that bloggers, the news media and a confusing overview of the law on the Virginia Supreme Court Web site have contributed to public misunderstanding.

“Those damn bloggers! Exposing our actions like that!” Where have I heard that before?

“I don’t feel we dropped the [public relations] ball,” Howell said. “This has been a storm that no one anticipated.”

Because someone found out about it. You thought you could hide in your offices, vote on bills, and no one would notice what’s in them.

The unlikely display of bipartisanship at a state Capitol news conference was aimed at quelling a spreading voter revolt, largely via the Internet, that potentially threatens some legislators in fall elections for the House and Senate.

Unfortunately for me, no one is running against McDougle or Wittman.

[…]

A growing number of legislators, most of them Republicans, have urged Kaine to order the General Assembly into special session this summer to revise the penalties, some of which could cost drivers thousands of dollars over three years. Felony offenses, such as reckless driving, carry a $3,000 fine.

I thought you wanted them fix, Kaine, you lying bastard. You just want people to totally forget about it by next year. If there’s a problem, why wait?

House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, told reporters he believed the Virginia courts would rule that it is constitutional for the state to limit the penalties to Virginians. Griffith, a lawyer, who — like Albo — handles traffic cases, said the new law could cut into his business.

“We’re going to tell our clients, ‘Hey, I’m not going to challenge its constitutionality. You may want another lawyer,'” said Griffith. “It’s going to cost us a few clients.”

You’re so full of it. They’re going to hire you in the hope of being found not guilty or negotiating a plea deal for an amended charge you weasels.

Here’s hoping the people that voted for this get their asses kicked in November.

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

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch: Kaine: fees only for Va. motorists:

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s office was behind the exclusion of out-of-state motorists from new hefty driving fees that have generated considerable outrage around the state.

Republican members of the General Assembly have taken most of the heat, but their original transportation bill in this year’s General Assembly session included out-of-state motorists.

[…]

“We feel Virginians’ concerns,” said Hall, who added that Kaine would work with the assembly next year in trying to find a way to include out-of-state motorists.

[…]

The fees cover not only serious driving offenses but many misdemeanors. For instance, a reckless-driving conviction mandates $1,050 in fees over a three-year period — as does a misdemeanor conviction for failure to give a proper signal.

Any felony conviction results in $3,000 in fees, in three annual payments, on top of court-imposed penalties. Most misdemeanors, including driving with “below-standard tires,” amount to $900.

The fees have stirred outrage and an online petition drive that has garnered close to 100,000 signatures. Petitioners appear most upset that the fees apply only to in-state motorists.

[…]

Albo and others have been promoting bad-driver fees for three years. Kaine endorsed them last year and again this year in his State of the Commonwealth address.

What a bunch of geniuses. I hope, Governor, that you have set aside some money for the (hopefully) soon to be filed federal lawsuit. Not to mention, that the fines that would normally go to the local jurisdiction will probably be suspended by the judge now. Nothing like a Northern Virginia/Hampton Roads money grab.

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