Don't Pick on the Drivers

If there’s one thing that gets people really angry, it’s governments picking on drivers. But that hasn’t stopped Virginia from introducing astronomical fines for speeding—some as high as $2500.

The injustice has spurred the masses to action, and congressmen all over the state are getting earfuls from furious constituents threatening to vote them out unless they repeal the fines. Drivers are particularly angry since the rise in fines is a simple money-raising matter.

“Criminal and civil penalties shouldn’t be created for raising money,” Mr. Marshall said, adding that constituents had stopped him on the street and even in the post office and called his office to voice frustration with the new fines. “You don’t want to turn our police into gun-toting tax collectors. They’re supposed to be officers of the peace, nothing else.” ...

Clay Morad, a driver in Arlington who signed the petition [against the fines], said: “There are other ways to get these road projects done. I’d be more than willing to pay an extra dollar per year in taxes to avoid having to worry about getting a $2,500 fine for going above the speed limit.”

The petition is probably one of the best recent examples of mass action against the state, which says it only introduced the fines because raising taxes was too politically difficult. Maybe they should take a hint.

A couple of weeks ago, Radley Balko looked at the dubious delegate behind the fines.

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  • ||

    I guess that anti-tax activism is really paying off.

  • ||

    The injustice has spurred the masses to action, and congressmen all over the state are getting earfuls from furious constituents threatening to vote them out unless they repeal the fines.

    But the fines weren't enacted by congressmen; they were enacted by state senators and delegates. Is this just another indication of how stupid voters are?

  • ||

    Seamus,

    Are you saying that state congressmen had no vote on this issue?

  • ||

    Anybody got a link to where one can join the petition?
    Is this a matter for VA residents only or also for those out-of-staters doing a lot of driving in that State Of The Free?

    If I understand it correctly, the huge amount is collected as a "fee" not a "fine" and thus from VA residents only, no? In which case I doubt this scheme would survive a court challenge. What about the insane number of points (6 for simple speeding) atacched to all this? Do they apply to everyone?

  • ||

    Yep joe.

    Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter the no-tax-revolt.

  • x,y||

    I don't condone what Virginia is doing here, but why are these people getting all worked-up about the outside chance they'll get a speeding ticket (which also happens to be something they have a lot of control over) and not all worked-up about their federal, state, local, SS, and Medicare taxes ... which are automatically deducted every pay period.

  • ||

    "You don't want to turn our police into gun-toting tax collectors. They're supposed to be officers of the peace, nothing else."

    HA! HA!

  • Episiarch||

    it only introduced the fines because raising taxes was too politically difficult. Maybe they should take a hint

    Keep dreaming. Politicians are long past the point of ever considering reducing budgets. They are 100% in "we need more money--how can we raise it" mode. If the tax increase is no good, raise fines on sppeding, or the cost of registering your car, or the price of a fishing permit, and so on.

    There are so many gazillions of ways in which they put the squeeze on us that it's just a matter for them of crunching numbers until they figure that a $10 increase on car inspection fees will give them what they need this year. Next year something else. It never stops.

  • x,y||

    This proves people are ignorant. They get all worked-up because they will "feel" a large fine/fee that comes out of their post-tax wages, but because their taxes are deducted automatically, people tend not to think of that money as theirs in the first place.

  • robc||

    My understanding is that the sponsor of this legislation is a dui attorney as his primary business. This is a way to generate more business for himself. Most people wont hire an attorney to fight a $150 ticket, but if its $2500....

  • ||

    "You don't want to turn our police into gun-toting tax collectors. They're supposed to be officers of the peace, nothing else."

    Too late. That's all the cops have ever been in my lifetime. I've always felt there should be a constitutional amendment (at the state level even) that prohibits the state from profiting from enforcing the law. You get the same corruption from (blatantly unconstitutional) asset seizure laws.

    The sad part about this is that the only reason there is a backlash, is because VA acted too fast. If they repeal the increase, and then raise the penalties a few percent each year, they can be right back to current levels in less than ten years without a peep from the sheeple. (Oy, SAT)

  • ||

    martin, you are correct - fees, not fines, and only to Va residents. But, according to my paper this morning, "officials want the next Assembly to revisit" the non-Va. residents portion.

  • ||

    Virginia also has some of the slowest freeway speeds in the nation, making their drivers even more irate than usual.

  • x,y||

    I've always felt there should be a constitutional amendment (at the state level even) that prohibits the state from profiting from enforcing the law.

    My guess is that the amendment you speak of would be too broad to be workable. Do you have something narrow in mind?

    The better solution is to chip away at the Leviathan. In other words, give them less laws to enforce.

  • ||

    The NC constitution has a provision that requires that all "clear proceeds" from civil penalties must go to schools. In my area the city has been using the cash generated by traffic light cameras. The state supreme court ruled that this was unconstitutional and they owe the school system a pile of money. Now that the cash cow has left the building, it sounds like they aren't too motivated to keep it going. I love it when they talk about public safety and all that bullshit, but something like this illustrates that it is purely about revenue.

    http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20070703/NEWS/707030345/-1/XML

  • ||

    Sunset Ammendment:

    Every Law passed by Congress shall become null and void five years after its date of Passage, or five years after the Ratification of this Ammendment, whichever is later.

  • x,y||

    crimethink,

    I've always liked that idea. Make them reauthorize everything.

  • ||

    I guess that anti-tax activism is really paying off.

    I think joe wins this thread from the start. It sounds like Virginians prefer the risk of a big fat "speeding tax" over the certainty of a smaller tax.

  • ||

    But if they spent all of their time having to reauthorize everything, they wouldn't have any time to work on new legislation? Oh, wait.......

  • ||

    The Sunset Amendment does no good without some kind of "Read the Bill" amendment. Otherwise, Congress will just add a new omnibus bill that contains everything from five years ago. Its sheer bulk will be used as an excuse to limit debate and mindlessly rubber-stamp its contents.

  • ||

    Dan-

    Maybe Virginians prefer the risk of a few spending cuts over any tax increase?

  • ||

    Dan-

    Maybe Virginians prefer the risk of a few spending cuts over any tax increase?


    Then they should vote in people who will cut spending. The problem often is that when people want "spending cuts" they almost always mean "cuts in programs that I personally don't benefit from".

  • lunchstealer||

    Now, I've always felt that for people who've sped too much, who just pay the fines and keep on speeding, that speeding fines should go up dramatically - and $2500 for 15 MPH over the limit, 3rd offense in a year, isn't that egregious. But people who can't afford that should be able to opt for a night in the pokey.

    4th offense in a year should just be a night in the pokey. Seriously, if you can't keep it under 70 in a 55 zone, you're too stupid to drive.

    But criminal justice as revenue source has always been a bad idea. It incentivizes cheating on the part of the cops. And even honest cops shouldn't be subject to the accusation that they're doing it under pressure for money. Leave revenue to normal revenue methods and leave punitive damages punitive.

    Also, don't let departments keep the money from confiscations that don't result in prosecutions.

  • ||

    "Then they should vote in people who will cut spending."

    Do such people exist?

    "The problem often is that when people want "spending cuts" they almost always mean "cuts in programs that I personally don't benefit from"."

    Sadly, you are correct.

  • Mark||

    "Maybe Virginians prefer the risk of a few spending cuts over any tax increase"

    Exactly my thoughts. Why is it that spending cuts in some areas are never discussed as a way to free up monies for more necessary projects? Surely there are some programs from which money can be shifted to pay for road repair.

  • ||

    But criminal justice as revenue source has always been a bad idea.

    Isn't that how "justice corporations" would make their money in an anarcho-capitalist system? Say fifty Hail Murrays for your sin against libertarianism.

  • VM||

    DanT:

    The problem often is that when people want "spending cuts" they almost always mean "cuts in programs that I personally don't benefit from".

    wow. You certainly are out of touch with real Americans.

    SIRYBAGTFT

  • GILMORE||

    i think things like this and the internet gambling bans are the types of things that will begin to drive otherwise complacent people to start to adopt more libertarian attitudes towards government

    the 'gun toting tax collector' point is a blurb that many will begin to understand as a real fact as opposed to a scary exaggeration

  • ||

    It sounds like Virginians prefer the risk of a big fat "speeding tax" over the certainty of a smaller tax.

    Once again, you're confusing the people and the people's representatives. Legislators are not simply emanations of their constituents' will, they are human beings with the same conflicted motivations and ability for independent action as the rest of us.

    The legislators prefer the speeding "tax" because it allows them to increase revenue AND claim that they haven't voted to raise taxes.

  • ||

    Lunchstealer, I think you're assuming that arbitrary speed limits are somehow valid by default. In many places, if you don't drive 70 on a 55, you're blocking traffic and driving needlessly slow considering road and traffic conditions. I would conclude that people regularly driving 55 under such circumstances are "too stupid to drive," and too passive and subservient to arbitrary abuses of power.

    If the government passed laws forcing you to hop twice on your left foot every fourth step, and some people violated this three times, would you conclude that it's all fair and good to impose $2,500 fines or prohibit that person from walking (or send 'em to the pokey, right?).

  • ||

    They get all worked-up because they will "feel" a large fine/fee that comes out of their post-tax wages

    It's the exact reason why people cry so loudly about how high their property tax is...and why the property tax remains my preferred way of raising revenue for local area spending, including schools.

  • ||

    Dammit, VM, now I have to ask you what SIRYBAGTFT means.

    See, I read your blog and get the...?

  • x,y||

    The Sunset Amendment does no good without some kind of "Read the Bill" amendment.

    Do you mean where each Congresscritter certifies that he's read the bill or where the text of the bill is actually read on the floor? As you probably know, I favor the latter.

  • Edward||

    To be fair, such fines should graduated according to income.

  • ||

    "To be fair, such fines should graduated according to income."

    They should be especially high for "independently wealthy" blog trolls.

  • ||

    To be fair, such fines should graduated according to income.

    Ah yes, just what we need, $103,000 speeding tickets.

  • VM||

    ... and got this from there...

    nice one!

  • ||

    Didn't Northern Va discover 4-5 years ago that $100m or so had "disappeared" (completely unaccounted for) and so it needed another $200m to complete highway projects there?

  • MM||

    "Seriously, if you can't keep it under 70 in a 55 zone, you're too stupid to drive."

    Obviously, you've never driven in northern Virginia.

  • ||

    lunchstealer,

    Maybe if Virginia had decent speed limits, speeding wouldn't be that much of an issue. and its not just on the 3rd offense that these 2500 fines come into consideration. Its right off the bat, plus a tax on all points you have on your license, which takes years to expire. Its a horrible law from all sides and should be eliminated.

    In addition, no other traffic violations saw their fines rise, just speeding, so its obvious this is a tax rather than a safety issue.

  • ||

    Lunchstealer,

    I regularly drive 70 mph on the interstate here in Nashville where the speed limit says 55. So do roughly nine out of ten drivers around me. I believe people driving the speed limit exactly should stay the hell off the interstate or at the least get in the right hand lane and stay there.
    There's also an area north of Nashville before the Kentucky state line where the speed limit goes up to 70. I drive 80 there.

  • ||

    David,

    ...and when you cross into Georgia, all bets are off, its a race to Atlanta. I love Atlanta. The nominal speed is 55, everyone is driving 70, I got pulled over doing 75 and took a defensive driving class which I presented to the judge and he dismissed the case out of hand.

  • ||

    Do you mean where each Congresscritter certifies that he's read the bill or where the text of the bill is actually read on the floor? As you probably know, I favor the latter.



    The latter sounds cool to me. Personally, I'd prefer to make the president read it, too (full text, not just an executive summary). Unfortunately, pocket veto rules make that impractical.

  • Sal Paradise||

    If you're going to make the president read it, does GWB get help with the "hard words"?

  • ||

    Bear in mind that VA has already "spent" the money these increases are expected to raise. Heaven forbid people respond by actually slowing down (or hiring Del. Albo's henchmen) since that would create a budget crisis.

    In other words, the Commonwealth not only makes money from citizens breaking the law but they have actually put themselves in the position of depending upon them to break the law.

  • ||

    BTW, be careful of "sunset" provisions since they can have the unintended effect of making congress critters more willing to vote for legislation since it's only a "trial run" and, once passed, renewal is easier.

  • Dave W.||

    It will be interesting to see whether this tax measure reduces road fatalities in Virginia, and by how much.

  • ||

    Actually, mandatory sunset requirements would create some curious constitutional puzzles.

    Is Congress "reauthorizing" a law, or passing a new one? How does ex post facto apply here?

    Assuming I commit a crime that spans the period where the law comes up for renewal, can the government charge me with two counts of whatever I did, potentially doubling my sentence? Could it withhold one count until after the first trial, and thereby get around double jeopardy?

    Oh yeah: what about "regulations"? Would government agencies be affected by this? Wouldn't this encourage Congress to offload more and more responsibility to bureaucracies?

  • ||

    Are you saying that state congressmen had no vote on this issue?

    Exactly. These fines were enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia. Congress had nothing to do with them. (In the old days, it might have been argued that U.S. Sen. Harry Byrd picked the members of the General Assembly, or at least a working majority of them, but Byrd has been dead for 40 years now.)

  • ||

    I have no problem with the sort of omnibus bill that would arise from a sunset amendment. Anything truly egregious would be held up in debate and eliminated from the omnibus bill.

    Anyone who opposed that would be attackable every 5 years for "supporting the continuation of bill X" instead of getting a free pass on it.

  • x,y||

    Good points Son of a!

    Though I haven't thought much about them, I'll take a stab at some:

    Is Congress "reauthorizing" a law, or passing a new one? How does ex post facto apply here?

    I would submit that the difference between reauthorization and a new law would be largely semantic. And actions should be judged under the law in effect at the time of the action.

    Note also that "some have suggested that judge-made law is retroactive as a new precedent applies to events that occurred prior to the judicial decision" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ex_post_facto).

    Assuming I commit a crime that spans the period where the law comes up for renewal, can the government charge me with two counts of whatever I did, potentially doubling my sentence? Could it withhold one count until after the first trial, and thereby get around double jeopardy?

    I would suggest that the government could choose which law it wishes to prosecute you under. It would have to choose one and only one, but it would have the option. If the laws changed over time (with varying degrees of punitive punishments), this would have the added advantage of discouraging drawn-out crimes.

    Oh yeah: what about "regulations"? Would government agencies be affected by this? Wouldn't this encourage Congress to offload more and more responsibility to bureaucracies?

    All regulations would have to be read on the floor and authorized. Perhaps this would eliminate the "need" (not your words, just snark) for agencies.

  • ||

    The hard part is getting the Legislators to both read and understand the bills they vote on; I am one hundred per cent in favor of a mandatory reading of the bill during the session (with a requirement of full attendance- no "readings" in the middle of the night to a chamber occupied by janitors and security). There should be a test afterward.

  • ||

    I just want to say, in Dan T's defense, that he quoted a TownHall columnist describing people who believe in gay marriage as, ahem, "secular sellers of societal swill," which would make an awesome album title.

  • x,y||

    I just want to say, in Dan T's defense, that he quoted a TownHall columnist describing people who believe in gay marriage as, ahem, "secular sellers of societal swill," which would make an awesome album title.

    Except that the word "societal" is a bane on the English language. "Social," however, would work nicely.

  • ||

    Assuming I commit a crime that spans the period where the law comes up for renewal, can the government charge me with two counts of whatever I did, potentially doubling my sentence? Could it withhold one count until after the first trial, and thereby get around double jeopardy?

    That's an interesting question, but there's no reason it couldn't come up now either. For instance, Congress could vote today to ban marijuana possession again, but I don't think they'd be able to charge anyone who possesses with two counts for every violation of both laws.

    Oh yeah: what about "regulations"? Would government agencies be affected by this? Wouldn't this encourage Congress to offload more and more responsibility to bureaucracies?

    Well, they can try to offload responsibility, but that offloading would itself expire after 5 years. I'm not sure what would happen to the regulations if the "buck-passing" were renewed within 5 years. The text of the ammendment I gave is just a quick and dirty conversation starter.

    Also, since most existing regulatory agencies were actually created by Laws of Congress, they would cease to exist 5 years after the Sunset Ammendment was ratified, unless Congress chose to re-authorize them. (I'd assume federal employees would stop at nothing to strangle the Sunset Ammendment in its crib for this reason.)

    One way we could sell legislators on this would be that they would get the opportunity to vote to re-ban child pornography, treason, and counterfeiting every 5 years (or even more often if they wished). They could claim to be "protecting the children" without having to trample civil liberties in ever more new and creative ways.

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