In Virginia, new laws aimed at curbing highway speeding and drunk driving are now on the books. State motorists convicted of traffic violations face a new multiyear tax with assessments of up to $3,000, in addition to an annual point tax that tops out at $700 a year for as long as the points remain.
The new “driver responsibility tax” is part of the state’s transportation funding bill by Del. David B. Albo (R-Springfield), which was signed into law in April by Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, to pay for more than $1 billion in state road improvements. “The purpose of the civil remedial fees imposed in this section is to generate revenue [for state road improvements],” the new law states.
The fees went into effect July 1; the tax applies only to Virginia residents, and out-of-state motorists will be required to pay only the regular ticket amount.
An array of traffic offenses, from expired licenses to speeding, now come with the “civil remedial fee” attached. That means a motorist convicted of reckless driving — 75 mph in a 55 zone would qualify — faces not only a fine of up to $2,500 and a year in jail, but a non-negotiable $350-a-year tax for three years. The law forbids judges from waiving or reducing the fee.
A driver who disobeys an officer’s order to pull into a weigh station would be fined $35 and required to pay a $61 court processing fee, but the civil remedial fee would be $900 over three years. If you’re a first-time drunk driver, expect a $300 fine at the courthouse and a $2,250 fee from the state. Driving without a license might bring a $75 fine, but definitely a $900 fee from the commonwealth.
Anyone with eight points or more on his license would pay an additional $100, plus $75 for any points over eight, up to $700 a year for as long as the points remain. Six-point convictions include such infractions as reckless driving, passing a school bus, failing to give a proper signal or driving with an obstructed view.
“It’s outrageous,” traffic court attorney Thaddeus Furlong of Springfield, Va., told USA Today. “When Mr. and Mrs. Middle Class find out what they have to pay, there’s going to be a backlash like you’ve never seen.”
Some other states impose extra civil penalties for traffic offenses — Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Texas also impose a somewhat more modest driver responsibility tax that they apply to out-of-state residents — but the cost is usually $100 or $200, Furlong told USA Today. “What sets this apart is the Draconian size of the civil penalties,” he says.
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.”