Abusive Driver Fees Ruled Unconstitutional

August 2, 2007

A Judge in Henrico County has declared Virginia's new fees on abusive drivers unconstitutional.

General District Court Judge Archie Yeatts issued a ruling in the case of Anthony Price, who was facing his fifth charge of driving on a suspended license.

Price's lawyers argued at a hearing last week that forcing him to pay $750 in fees that don't apply to people outside of the state violates the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under the law.

With the order, Yeatts instructed Henrico General District Court clerks not to collect civil remedial fees that can reach $1,000 or more for certain driving offenses.

The ruling is binding only in Henrico County but is being immediately appealed in the Circuit Court and could eventually reach the Virginia Supreme Court.

The fees have come under fire since they were enacted last month.

Drivers charged with reckless driving could face up to a $1000 fine in addition to a normal ticket. One of the concerns about the fees was that out of state drivers would not be fined.

The fees were designed to raise money for state transportation projects.

Lawmakers have said they would revisit the fees in the next General Assembly.

Governor Tim Kaine said in a statement Thursday that whether the
courts find the law constitutional, he is "committed to addressing the concerns Virginians have raised about this law."

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