VA Driving Fees VS the Courts

VA Driving Fee update!  The fees are being challenged in the courts.  Although the initial rounds went our way (inrich):

Judge Thomas O. Jones of Richmond General District Court became the second area judge to declare the state’s dangerous-driver fees law unconstitutional.

Jones called it a “no-brainer” that the law violates the U.S. Constitution because it imposes the fees, which are assessed upon conviction of certain traffic violations, on Virginia drivers but not those who are residents of other states.

The circuit court Judge for Henrico country has sided with misguided politicians who passed the law (WashPost):

 In a written opinion, Henrico County Circuit Court Judge L.A. Harris Jr. said he believes Virginia can exclude out-of-state motorists from the fees without unfairly targeting in-state motorists who have to pay them.

Here is the interesting part:

In today’s ruling overturning Yeats’ decision, Harris also noted how difficult it would be for Virginia to collect fees from an out-of-state motorists and cited past instances where states have set different charges for different groups of people.

I’d like to see these past instances.  VLW to the rescue with the pdf!

Essentially, Harris claims that a law that taxes residents of Philadelphia higher than non residents provides similar reasoning that can be extrapolated to the driver’s fees.  If we were just talking about a straight up tax, this would be a smart shot across the bow.  Instead it is a dud.  While the fees are in effect a tax, they are implemented as a punishment for a crime.  Hence the unequal protection gambit.

I’m not a lawyer, but I just don’t get the logic the State of Virginia and Judge Harris are applying here.  If a Maryland resident commits a crime in Virginia, they don’t get charged under Maryland law, do they?  For the fees to make the pretense of legitimacy, they’d have to be fines, and applied equally.  Even then, I’m certain there would be a strong case for violation of the 8th amendment under “not excessive fines imposed”.

But at the moment, there really is a fundamental problem with the inequality of the fees.  The fact that similar laws in “Michigan, Texas, New York and New Jersey” apply equally to residents and non residents may have no legal bearing on the case as Harris asserts.  But that is damn telling that every other state who has implemented these fees has imposed them equally.

We need to keep up the fight against these fees.  The pressure is starting to show (WashPost):

But the fees have since been vilified by an angry public (more than 170,000 people have signed an online petition to repeal them), denounced by lawmakers who once supported them and ruled unconstitutional by judges in two localities who said they violate equal protection rights guaranteed under the 14th Amendment. A Centreville man convicted of reckless driving filed a challenge to the fees in Arlington County General District Court on the same grounds.

Here is the largest petition online.  Sign it, contact your legislative representatives and local papers, and let’s keep up the momentum!

Let’s overturn the Virginia Driving Fees!

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One Response

  1. IT SCARES ME THAT GOV. KAINE CAN SAY THESE LAWS ARE TARGETED TOWARD THE CRIMINAL AND REPEAT OFFENDERS WHILE LEAVING THEIR ENFORCEMENT TO THE SUBJECTIVITY OF THE CITING OR ARRESTING OFFICER.

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