Fighting the VA Driving Fees

There is a growing chorus against the civil fees for traffic violations in Virginia. As noted before the bill’s author David Albo has an obvious conflict of interest:

What’s Delegate Albo’s day job? He’s a defense attorney whose firm specializes in traffic and DUI offenses.

So let me get this straight. With one hand, Delegate Albo is voting for higher traffic violation penalties and incentivizing defendants to fight charges, and with the other, Counselor Albo is bragging about the guy with the 0.33 BAC his firm got acquitted.

I love the smell of conflict of interest in the morning. Smells like… corruption and lack of accountability.

The attention being paid to Albo’s day job is not appreciated by the Delegate:

Critics say that Albo — a senior partner in the Springfield traffic law firm of Albo & Oblon — may see a significant bump in his business as motorists seek to protect their bank accounts from the hefty traffic fines.

“I take great offense to that,” Albo told the Alexandria Times, blaming the criticism on Democratic bloggers. “No moron in America is hiring Dave Albo for $1,200 to get them out of a $1,000 ticket.”

Damn those Democratic bloggers! Given that the total cost of a ticket can cost $3,550 and carry jail time, $1,200 might look pretty good. In reality, this is a great case for Democrats and Republicans to join together in opposing a tax implemented by a lawyer with a clear conflict of interest.

The bill itself may be unconstitutional:

On Wednesday, The Rutherford Institute, a non-profit organization headquartered in Charlottesville, sent a letter to the Virginia General Assembly which claimed the fees are unconstitutional under state law because they discriminate against Virginians and impose excessive fines.

The excessive fines part definitely applies (emphasis mine):

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

The pressure is building on the lawmakers who imposed this mess of a law to backtrack:

Virginia Republican leaders, faced with growing opposition to the “abusive driver” fees that went into effect July 1, said Thursday that they will consider scrapping some of them when the General Assembly convenes in January.

That’s a long time to go with this bill in full force, and even then, lawmakers are only considering “scrapping some” of the fees. I don’t see why we should let them off the hook. Obviously caught in a bad miscalculation, the excuses coming in are pathetic:

“As a part-time legislature, we will make mistakes, and we will have to correct them,” said House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith (R-Salem), who wants to revisit which misdemeanors the fees cover.

Being a part time legislature shouldn’t influence the professionalism and integrity with which you approach the responsibility of representing your constituents. This mistake reveals a simple lack of respect for the voters who put them into office. A partial removal of these fines half a year after they have been in effect is quite literally too little too late.

In the next election cycle, this will be a bill to remember. In the meantime:

A coalition of anti-tax activists and advocates for the poor also has started an online petition drive calling for a special session. The group wants the General Assembly to eliminate all of the new fees, not just those for Class 3 or 4 misdemeanors. As of Thursday, more than 1,200 people had signed the petition. Another petition received more than 36,000 signatures.

The petition can be found here (via slug-lines).

(Note: After signing the petition at ipetitions, you will be asked for a donation. This is to support ipetitions, and is not related to the petition itself.)

UPDATE:  A much larger petition can be found here (Hat tip “however”).


9 Responses

  1. Try this petition 61,000 and counting. I for one am fed up with irresponsible government!

  2. The first thing that I thought of when I heard about these fee’s was that lawyers are involved. Being an economics student my Public Policy professor always taught us to look at who benefits most from legislation and you can trace them to the sponsors. Now, having read the article, I am incensed at guys like Albo.

    “No moron in America is hiring Dave Albo for $1,200 to get them out of a $1,000 ticket”

    His above quote is ludicrous considering that its not just the ticket vs. cost of lawyer one takes into account. What about insurance, points, driving record scarred for years?? Of course you are going to hire a lawyer!

    This person should be thrown out of office as far as I’m concerned. Richmond needs to get smart of they will incur the wrath of voters.

  3. The online petition that is calling not only for the complete repeal of the new ‘abusive driver’ fees (aka Civil Remedial fees), but also for the Virginia Legislature to convene a special session by September 30, 2007 to repeal the fees is located at:

    The citizens of Virginia do not want to wait until the regular session of legislature in January 2008 for politicians to ‘review’ the fees. We want them to call a special session before the November elections and completely repeal HB3202 that enacted these fees.

    Gov. Tim Kaine has already said he will not call a special session, so the citizens of Virginia are asking the Senators and Delegates to call the special session.

    You can use the above link, or go to: search “VAtraffic”

    In reality, you can get a ticket, pay the fine, pay the new fee for three years, AND also end up paying a per point penalty for 3 years for the points on your record caused by the ticket. This exceeds double jeopardy.

    Failure or inability to pay will cause suspension of your driver’s license.

    This can impact someone’s ability to find or keep a job, and for people with security clearances, this could cause revocation of their clearances and prevent others from being eligible for security clearance.

    The suspension stays on your record for 7 years, increasing your insurances costs and in some cases, even affecting your eligibility to obtain loans, mortgages and other financing.

    The potential domino effect could be catastrophic for thousands of hard working citizens of Virginia. Young people starting their careers, college students, low and modest income families, and citizens on fixed incomes face potential economic devastation and ruin: for traffic violations.

    The punishment certainly seems to exceed any measure of ‘reasonable’.

    Politicians only starting using the words, abusive driver fees, making roads safer from ‘dangerous drivers’, dui’s, criminals etc., AFTER the public began their outcry.

    When you read the actual legislation, it shows it’s sole purpose is to raise revenue. Not a mention of safer roads.

    Well there are already heavy financial penalties in place for DUI’s, and the like, they are called FINES, COURT COSTS, ATTORNEY FEES, JAIL TIME, etc. Civil punishments are already on the books and in place to deal with traffic violations. Again – they are called fines.

    The courts and judges have no jurisdiction over the new CRF’s, they cannot waive or modify the fees for any reason, and the money goes directly into a state fund administered by the legislature. The legislators can change the purpose that the funds are used for at any time they like (remember the lottery money).

    Local jurisdictions will bear the increased costs of running the courts as they are flooded by drivers flocking to court to avoid these new fees.

    Dave Albo is only a part time legislator, he is a full time lawyer, and a named partner in the law firm that specializes in traffic tickets – so he (and his partners) profits whether he personally ever steps into the court room or not.

  4. […] fight back.  Chap Peterson, a Democrat running against Republican Jeannemarie Davis, is making the VA driving fees a campaign […]

  5. it is illegal to charge that kind of money from Virginia’s tax payers
    politicians how sported and broth this bill to law remember we will
    deal with you all in the election day.

  6. I’m glad to see this pissing people off on the left and the right. Its lawmaking at its worst, and watching the politicians backpedal only accentuates their actions.

    I hope we can keep the momentum on this going all the way to election day, and keep up the pressure to overturn the fees.

  7. […] 13, 2007 VA Driving Fee update!  The fees are being challenged in the courts.  Although the initial rounds went our way […]

  8. Even though i’m exempt being an out of state driver this law is ridiculous and should be repealed. They will simply change the legislation to include out of state drivers and only assess the maximum fee to out of state drivers. As somebody who unfortunately has to drive through VA from GA I will be spending as little time in VA as possible. The state is already one huge speed trap and this will only make things worse. I’m simply going to avoid VA unless I absolutely have to. Good luck with the petition. I hope they actually listen.

  9. […] on January 10, 2008 by Dan (Fitness) About time!  Governor Kaine has called for an end to the Virginia Driving Fees (Virginia Pilot): Gov. Timothy M. Kaine called for the repeal of new high penalties against abusive […]

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