Maybe there's hope and help after all for these stupid fines and fees....
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) - A civil liberties organization has written to leaders of the General Assembly, telling them to amend a new law that imposes steep so-called "abusive driver" fees or face a legal challenge on the validity of the law.
In the letter, Rutherford Institute President John W. Whitehead said the fees for such infractions as drunken driving and speeding are discriminatory and "a misguided way of pursuing a policy of road improvement, as well as being legally questionable."
The "abusive driver" measures impose "civil remedial fees" paid in three annual installments that could top $1,000 for some infractions. The fees are in addition to steep existing fines and, in some cases, jail time and drivers license suspensions.
They were passed by the General Assembly as part of the first transportation funding reforms in 21 years and are intended to make the worst drivers pay a greater share of the costs of new highways needed statewide.
They were enacted as fees, not fines, so that the revenue could be applied exclusively to road construction. The state Constitution directs all fines into the state Literary Fund, which helps build new schools and supplement teacher retirement.
The fees also are imposed on people who, through too many speeding tickets or lesser traffic violations, accumulate eight or more demerit points on their driving records beginning July 1. Those fees are $100 a year for as long as there are eight or more demerit points, plus $75 for each demerit beyond eight.
The law states that the fees were established because abusive driver infractions that also include reckless driving and driving on a suspended or revoked license impose "significant financial burdens upon the Commonwealth."
In Whitehead's mind, the assessment of "exorbitant" fees violates Constitutional protections against "undue, extreme and discriminatory punishments" on Virginians.
In a news release, Whitehead said the law could be challenged because there is no logical connection between the fees and the cost to the state of the infractions.
He also noted that it's "legally indefensible" to impose the steep fees only on Virginia drivers, a point Gov. Timothy M. Kaine also has said may need addressing.
Late last month, Kaine said he has received a lot of negative feedback about inequities in the law and the legislature may have to revisit the terms of the law.