State Legislators Question Impact of Abuser Fees

Several states have resorted to civil remedial fees in an effort to raise revenue and reduce certain driving related offenses. The thought is that excessively high fees for offenses like drunk driving and speeding would make people think twice about engaging in those actions.

Texas requires payment of $1000 fee each year for three years for a motorist to renew a driver’s license after a Texas DWI conviction. Virginia recently enacted punishments that can add thousands of dollars in addition to the regular fines for traffic offenses like speeding or driving under the influence.

The impact of these mandatory fees is now being questioned by state legislators. The fees are quite openly viewed as revenue sources by lawmakers, though statistics show not nearly as much is being collected as initially forecast. Collection of the fines is also lagging, as some people charged simply do not have the disposable income to pay the fee.

Opponents cite double jeopardy, paying twice for a single offense that already has a financial penalty. Texas has seen an eleven percent increase in arrest warrants. Some of the warrants involve moving violations but the majority are related to paperwork like licensing problems and expired insurance. Many people trying balance limited budgets pay their bills and accept the risk of an arrest warrant.

Examples have also been cited of motorists stopped for minor violations becoming ensnared in a financial and legal morass. Typically an unpaid fee results in the suspension of one’s driver’s license, making the situation worse. There have been cases of administrative errors resulting in a motorist not knowing his/her license has been suspended. Being stopped for driving with a suspended license would add further fines and reinstatement fees.

In both Texas and Michigan, bills have been referred to the Senate Transportation Committee that would end the collection of driver responsibility fees.

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