August 02, 2007

Where The Llama Hoof Meets The Highway

Virginia residents living in terror of the new "abusive driving fees" that went into effect last month will be pleased by this development:

Judge Strikes Down Va. Abusive Driver Fees Fees Declared Unconstitutional

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."

The General Assembly passed the fees this year to help endow the first major transportation funding law in a generation. They range from the fee Price initially faced -- three annual installments of $250 -- to $3,000 over three years for driving-related felonies.

Because lawmakers wanted the revenue for highway maintenance, they enacted the surcharges as fees, which Virginia is powerless to collect outside its boundaries. The state can collect fines from out-of-state motorists, but the state Constitution requires those revenues to be used exclusively for education.

Except in the matter of wine production, I'm pretty pro-Commonwealth as a rule, but this was a dumb-stupid and monstrously inequitable idea from the start. I've not yet heard of anybody getting popped with a $1000 speeding ticket, but the potential has been wonderfully unpleasant. With any luck, the whole scheme will be chucked eftsoons.

UPDATE: Here's an online petition demanding the House o' Delegates meet in special session to repeal the fees. Go sign, fellow Vuhginians!

Posted by Robert at August 2, 2007 12:55 PM | TrackBack