Thursday, June 21, 2007

VA's New Traffic ‘Civil Remedial Fees’ Will Destroy Many Families' Finances and Fill Special Interests' Pockets, not Potholes!

Are you a "Dangerous Driver"- are you SURE you're not? You must not have read the new list of civil offenses that Gov. Kaine just signed into law. Chances are- a few of your typical actions ARE on the list.

Are you ready to feel the hand of Government molest your sense of right and wrong while it pinches our wallets and pocketbooks with the subtlety of Rosie O'Donnell at, well– anywhere?

"No!", you say? Well all you have to do is drive "perfectly" and you won't lose your driver's license or THOUSANDS of dollars for doing things you likely do every day, like park in the street to get your mail, or slightly roll through a stop sign, maybe exceed the speed limit on I-95 with hundreds of thousands of other commuters each day.

Did you think about what your passengers are watching on the ceiling mounted DVD player and whether it could be a crime? It easily could be now thanks to:

Ask yourself who you've seen driving more recklessly on our primary roads- Virginians or out-of-state drivers.

Virginians are far from perfect, but this code serves to not just penalize Virginians exclusively, but also will be enacted in a stealthy manner such that there is zero promotion of it and zero tolerance allowed by the courts even if they wanted to.

This puts the pressure on deputies and local law enforcement policies to decide whether to utterly destroy a driver's future and finances in many cases, or or look the other way and ignore, or make case-by-case judgement calls (also known as favoritism) as to write someone up for these offenses– most of which a person wouldn't willfully commit had they understood the ramifications!

Thanks partly to one RHINO (Republican In Name Only), Del. Steve Landes, our government just got a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more destructive in some cases.

I'm all for "throwing the book" at a willful offender of laws that harm others or take away our freedoms, no matter how small, but this is yet another example of how our government is reaching too far, too fast and using a shotgun to kill a fly.

I'll bet a year from now you'll know someone personally who was affected by these new laws if they are enforced to their letter, and you won't hear any happy stories or "lessons learned", but instead resentful of law enforcement officers just doing their jobs and feelings of despise toward our legal system and even more sentiments of distrust in our elected leaders for making such divisive and destructive laws against its own citizens.

IF ONLY WE WERE THIS TOUGH ON ILLEGAL ALIENS... but they too are exempt!

Are the schools going to adapt their curriculum to teach this new form of defensive driving and explain all the rules on top of rules on top of penalties for making driving mistakes in an imperfect driving environment?

“The General Assembly dubbed the law the 'Dangerous Driver Law,' but it is much more far reaching than that,” said Tommy Moore, clerk of the Botetourt Circuit Court. It will keep the clerk's office busy collecting the first of three annual civil fee payments from drivers convicted of any number of traffic violations. The civil fees will be on top of traffic fines that courts impose, and are part of the new financial package to help fund Virginia's beleaguered highway department.

For instance, an offender charged and convicted of reckless driving for going 20 mph over the speed limit (not necessarily driving in a reckless manner) would pay the traffic fines and court costs, plus be accessed a $1,000 civil fee. One-third of the civil fee would have to be paid the day of the conviction. The rest would be paid in two equal installments over the next two years.

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is responsible for collecting the final two payments. The new system is designed to spread the fees into three yearly payments. The fees could reach into the hundreds or thousands of dollars for some traffic offenders.

The idea, according to published a report, is “Drive Safe and Save Money.” “We felt it would be a good thing to do for public safety and a unique way to raise more funding,” said Del. Steve Landes, (R-Weyers Cave,) who co-sponsored the legislation this past winter.

The civil fees will go into a newly created special transportation fund to pay for road construction. Local (New River Valley) elected officials didn't want to go on the record commenting on this way of raising funds for transportation in the state, but privately several said it was a way of keeping the Republican-controlled General Assembly from having to implement a new tax or raise taxes for the troubled transportation system.

Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, signed the bill into law. Instead of direct taxes to fund transportation, some are calling the civil penalties “hidden fees.” They range from $250 to $3,000, depending on the traffic violation, and will be assessed on a variety of misdemeanor traffic violations including being a passenger in a hit and run or the failure to give a proper signal.

Moore provided a print out of violations that he received at the circuit court clerks conference on June 4 and 5. The printout filled five pages. Many of the civil fees do address alcohol as was the intent of the “Dangerous Driver Law” when it originated, but the fees also may be accessed for such daily traffic violations as rolling through a stop sign (a fee of $300), or impeding traffic--a charge that's possible when stopping in front of your mailbox to get the mail. The civil fee alone for a conviction on the latter is $300. Play an R or X rated movie on the van DVD player and if it is seen by someone in another vehicle, a driver can be charged and fined with having an obscene video image seen from outside the car. The civil fee is $300.

The new law takes effect July 1, 2007. Botetourt County Commonwealth's Attorney Joel Branscom feels this will be hitting some folks who can least afford the extra fees. If a convicted traffic offender does not pay the fees for whatever reason, the person's driver's license is revoked.

The fees will be hitting many of those who can least afford to lose a driver's permit, and the fallout could keep people from being able to work or pay child support, and that is already a part of the downward spiral many traffic offenders are already facing, said both Branscom and Moore, who see dire effects with the new set of civil fees. “Judges have no leeway with the new law,” said Branscom. which means they cannot reduce or suspend the civil fees.

According to Moore, after the court collects the first civil fee installment, the DMV collects the next two yearly installments and will use a collection agency to retrieve those final two payments. That adds a layer of cost in collection that will reduce the benefit to road funding. Those who have driving points on their record also will be assessed an additional $175 per point in civil fees for their previous record up to $700 if convicted of a new violation.

Drivers from out of state will not be penalized by the civil system of fees because “the state can not go beyond its borders to collect the (civil) fees,” said Moore. “These fees are for Virginia residents and those with a permit listing a Virginia address.”

July 1 looms in two weeks and the clerk's offices around the state are doing what they can to prepare for the collection of the first round of civil fees, which will bring a whole new aspect to traffic court in Virginia.

source: Kathy Benson, our


At June 24, 2007 at 7:23 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

So basically- we have to pay a civil penalty, which is normally for reparations of something we did to cause society a financial harm.... so I run a stop sign and don't break anything, but have to pay $900 now, but the lady from Maryland runs the same stop sign right after me and she gets a $35 fine. Seems like we're going backward in time, not forward- where are all the Republicans?? Have the liberals completely taken over Virginia and run things so badly that we need to rape our own people to fix potholes now? I can't wait to see the fallout of this one when the first round of people fight these insane fees to the Virginia Supreme Court!

At June 27, 2007 at 1:11 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill Howell just lost my vote in this op-ed. I don't think he has a clue what it's like to get pulled over and the likihood of conviction when you aren't annointed by the state government.

At June 29, 2007 at 12:42 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

We Americans have short memories.
I think we should start a state wide drive to raise money,to place
billboards along Virginia's high
traffic areas,with a reminder of this law and the legislators who voted yes.This should be done 90
days prior to the next election.

At July 13, 2007 at 10:38 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

How in GODS name did we get people so DUMB to run our state people on fixed income can not pay fines like this if we made the money the people running this state does we could pay the fines. I think when election time comes we need to put these people out of work


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