June 22nd, 2007

VA: "civil fees" added to traffic offenses

From http://ourvalley.org/news.php?viewStory=831:

New traffic ‘civil remedial fees’ will wallop the wallets of traffic offenders"

"The civil fees will be on top of traffic fines courts impose, and are part of the new financial package to help fund Virginia's beleaguered highway department."

"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."

"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."

"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."

[The bit I find remarkable is this:]

"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.”"

From http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/18/1818.asp:

Virginia Introduces $3550 Speeding Ticket

"Driving as little as 15 MPH over the limit on an interstate highway now brings six license demerit points, a fine of up to $2500, up to one year in jail, and a new mandatory $1050 tax. The law also imposes an additional annual fee of up to $100 if a prior conviction leaves the motorist with a balance of eight demerit points, plus $75 for each additional point (up to $700 a year). The conviction in this example remains on the record for five years.

"Other six-point convictions include "failing to give a proper signal," "passing a school bus" or "driving with an obstructed view." The same $1050 assessment applies, but the conviction remains on the record for eleven years.

"Although the amount of the tax can add up quickly, the law forbids judges from reducing or suspending it in any way."

[Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Texas all figured out it was silly to exempt out-of-state drivers from paying:]


Driver Responsibility Programs Mean Steady Revenue for States
Four states turn minor and major driving offenses into billions in additional revenue.

"Michigan's program forces drivers who accumulate a certain point total to pay an extra $100-500 annual fee to maintain their license on top of any tickets and court fees already paid. For certain offenses such as DUI, the annual fee is $1000. In New York state, where the governor wants to introduce speed cameras, the extra payment kicks in if you are caught twice driving just 1 mile per hour over the speed limit.

"In most cases, failure to pay the yearly assessment on time results in license suspension. Re-instating a license in Michigan, for example, will cost another $125.

"Driver Responsibility programs mean big money for the states who have tried them. By 2006, Texas expects to earn $300 million from its program. New Jersey, which has assessed the extra fees since 1994, has generated over $1 billion in profit. More than half of the offenses charged were paperwork related, a third were related to driving offenses and just 12 percent were DUI-related. Florida considered creating a driver responsibility program after realizing that, in 2003, more than one out of every four drivers in the state (614,879) had 6 or more points on their license. Illinois, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island have also considered beginning their own programs."

[I'm sure other states will find this revenue source difficult to resist.]

(Thanks to vvalkyri for the original link.)

Americans: Applied for a passport recently? You'll be waiting a while.

(From http://travel.latimes.com/articles/la-trw-passports20jun20:)"

"Desperate to obtain their U.S. passports, world travelers have been flying to Seattle, where the passport office is considered one of the nation's most efficient. But even there, more than 110,000 backlogged applications are piled in closets, the supervisor's office and the break room.

"Many won't be touched for months. Half of the staff is trying to help the crowds jamming the lobby and spilling out the door."

http://travel.latimes.com/articles/la-trw-passportdiary13jun13 has one reporter's diary of getting her passport renewed.

"I also had an interview this morning with Colin Walle, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees Local 1998, and he tells me the passport backlog is close to 3 million. The good news: The backlog has shrunk in the last couple of weeks. The bad news: The backlog was only 1.3 million in February."

"In testimony on Tuesday in the Senate, Maura Harty, assistant secretary of State for consular affairs, said the backlog was indeed 3 million. That 500,000 number was the number that had already taken longer than 10 to 12 weeks."

(Today seems to be my day of "stupid government tricks" posts.)