Say you are driving 78 mph on the Capital Beltway and a state trooper tickets you for “reckless driving — speeding 20 mph over.” You will probably be fined $200 by the judge. But then you will receive a new, additional $1,050 fine from the Old Dominion, payable in three convenient installments. So convenient that you must pay the first one immediately, at the courthouse.
First-time drunk driver? A $300 fine from the judge and a $2,250 fee from the commonwealth.
Driving without a license? Maybe a $75 fine. Definitely a $900 fee from Virginia.
As part of the plan to fund the annual $1 billion transportation package approved this year, state legislators endorsed a new set of “civil remedial fees” for all misdemeanor and felony traffic violations, such as speeding 20 mph above the limit, reckless driving and, in some cases, driving with faulty brakes. Drivers with points on their licenses — a speeding ticket usually earns four points — will be hit for $75 for every point above eight and $100 for having that many points in the first place.
The new fees will go into effect July 1, and defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges expect chaos. Court clerks fear having to deal with angry hordes learning about the fees for the first time at the payment window.
Naturally, my first thought was, Note to self: Do not drive through Virginia, but non-residents have an out:
The fees will be imposed only on Virginia residents. All defendants must pay the fines, but the “abuser fees,” as Del. David B. Albo (R-Fairfax) calls them, are part of the state licensing fees and cannot be imposed on out-of-state drivers.
The money has to come from somewhere, and it doesn’t look like a gas tax was on the table:
Albo and Del. Thomas D. Rust (R-Fairfax), who co-sponsored the fee legislation, project that $65 million to $120 million will be raised annually to cover costs of snow removal, pothole repair and grass-mowing. Money for Northern Virginia’s congested roads had to come from somewhere, they reasoned, and new taxes were not going to fly in the GOP-controlled House of Delegates.