Criminal Justice

Virginia Suspends Hundreds of Thousands of Driver's Licenses Due to Unpaid Court Debt

More than 900,000 people in Virginia have suspended licenses, in what a new class-action lawsuit claims is an unconstitutional revenue scheme.

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Ariel Skelley Blend Images/Newscom

Christine Johnson, 45, sat outside the Department of Public Safety in Richmond, Virginia, on a sticky summer afternoon, waiting for the bus.

Across the street was the city's Traffic General District Court, one of the state courts where about 360,000 people a year are hit with fines that will ultimately lead to their license being suspended.

Johnson's license was suspended for three months after she failed to appear in court following a traffic accident.

"Someone hit me, and I would have had to go to court and fight it," Johnson told me. "But I didn't go to court. I was in the hospital. When I started driving again, I got pulled over and found out my license was suspended for not showing up in court. So I had to file an appeal, go back to traffic court, pay $280 or $290 dollars. It took about three months. I couldn't go grocery shopping, I couldn't go do laundry. I had to start using medical transportation and paying family members to take me grocery shopping. It was horrible."

Johnson was fortunate, however, in that she could at least cover the costs. Her boyfriend, she said, has a suspended license and has racked up about $2,500 in fines. "He only works part time, so it's going to take him forever to get his license reinstated," she said. "If I have a vehicle, he'll drive my car without a license."

"My best friend, her car is registered in someone else's name, because she's got to get to work and doctor appointments, so she's driving with a suspended license," Johnson continued.

Johnson's boyfriend and best friend are among the more than 900,000 Virginia residents—roughly 11 percent of the state population—who have suspended licenses at any given time in the state. The majority of those suspensions are for unpaid court debts.

I had travelled to Richmond to talk to people with suspended licenses, figuring it wouldn't be hard to find someone with those sort of odds. I didn't have to wait long. Johnson was the first person I talked to at the bus stop.

"I thought it was a just a few of us," Virginia resident Robert Taylor, 28, told me in a phone interview. "It's easy to find us now, especially if you go to jail."

Taylor is one of four named plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit filed in July by the Legal Aid Justice Center, an organization that provides free legal services to low-income Virginia residents, challenging Virginia's policy of suspending drivers licenses indefinitely for unpaid court debts. The state automatically suspends licenses if court fines and fees remain unpaid for more than 30 days. The lawsuit argues that the state's failure to assess whether indigent defendants can afford those fines violates their constitutional rights to due process and equal protection under the law.

"Driver's license suspension is Virginia's form of a debtors' prison," Angela Ciolfi, a senior attorney at the Legal Aid Justice Center, said in a statement. "Many areas of the state provide no reliable public transportation, effectively leaving people confined to their homes or forcing them to risk jail time by driving on suspended licenses."

The Virginia DMV directed a request for comment to the Virginia Office of the Attorney General, which declined to respond.

Taylor said working class families in rural Brunswick County, where's he's from, are hit particularly hard by the policy. "If you get a traffic ticket, it becomes a family affair to get that paid off so you don't get your license suspended," he said. "It's become a huge ordeal in the neighborhoods where I'm from."

According to a Virginia DMV snapshot of data in 2015, 65 percent of outstanding suspensions were for failure to pay court debt, and roughly 38 percent of the suspension orders that year were due to unpaid court costs or fines unrelated to driving.

"I have represented countless people for whom a minor infraction or some other offense that may be completely unrelated to driving results in them being unable to pay court costs or fines," Maria Jankowski, deputy executive director of the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission, which certifies and provides court-appointed attorneys for indigent defendants in the state, said. "Then they get into a vicious cycle where the DMV suspends their license, and they can't drive but have to get to work. That cycle is very, very, very real."

Taylor's trouble started when received a ticket for having expired license plate tags in 2009. In 2014, he was cited for running a red light, as well as driving on a suspended license—the result of unpaid fines from his previous ticket. Taylor managed to get his license reinstated, but after he was found guilty of driving on a suspended license, the court levied more fines against him without assessing his ability to pay.

He managed to pay off the first two offenses, but by that time he had gotten two more charges for driving on a suspended license. He couldn't afford the payment plans offered by the courts, many of which require down payments.

Buried under court and student loan debts, as well as medical bills from ongoing health issues, he lost his job at a T-Mobile store and has been unemployed for more than a year.

Virginia is not the only state in which fines from small infractions have left large numbers of people unable to drive legally. At least seven other states suspend licenses for unpaid court debts, a 2010 Brennan Center report found. California has suspended more than 4 million licenses for unpaid fines, according to a 2015 report by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area.

This week, the Western Center on Law and Poverty, a low-income advocacy group, sued Los Angeles County Superior Court, arguing it is ignoring state law that says courts should suspend licenses only when a defendant "has willfully failed to pay" a fine. The Western Center on Law and Poverty, along with other organizations including Bay Area Legal Aid and the ACLU of Northern California, also sent a letter to the California DMV this week saying the department lacks the authority to suspend licenses at the request of courts. Another report earlier this year by the Back on the Road California consortium, which includes several of the group's involved in the current lawsuit, found that "driver's license suspension rates range as high as five times the state average" in black and Latino communities.

Washington state stopped suspending licenses for unpaid fines related to nonmoving violations in 2013. Since then, suspensions have dropped by half, The New York Times reported last year.

Since the Justice Department released a report last year on Ferguson, Missouri's rapacious use of fines and fees as a revenue source, the issue has been in the national spotlight. In a "dear colleague" letter this March, Vanita Gupta, the head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, wrote that "state and local courts are encouraged to avoid suspending driver's licenses as a debt collection tool, reserving suspension for cases in which it would increase public safety."

"Research has consistently found that having a valid driver's license can be crucial to individuals' ability to maintain a job, pursue educational opportunities, and care for families," Gupta wrote. "At the same time, suspending defendants' licenses decreases the likelihood that defendants will resolve pending cases and outstanding court debts, both by jeopardizing their employment and by making it more difficult to travel to court, and results in more unlicensed driving."

"It's kind of like my feet are cut off," Taylor said. "I can't get anywhere. I want a job. I'll see a job, and when I find one I'm qualified for—I know I could run that store so well—but I can't get to it. Public transportation just isn't there. The bus will bring you in, but it won't take you back out. The only way to do it is to hopefully know someone who will give you a ride. So many of my friends have gotten traffic tickets that they've moved closer to town."

And that's just the trouble for people who live close to a large city.

"In Richmond, it's bad," said David Bough, a Virginia defense attorney who is also involved in the case. "Outside, it's nonexistent. You have people out in rural places who have to drive 20 miles to their job at Walmart."

Meanwhile, the fines and fees levied by Virginia courts have expanded over the years. Courts costs for misdemeanor or traffic violations in Virginia were $20 in 1989. Now they're as high as $99 before a host of other possible charges (blood withdrawal, jail admission, court-appointed attorney for example) are added.A pile of small, random fees have accumulated over the years as well: $3 "courthouse maintenance," for example, another $15 "Internet Crimes Against Children" fee, and so on.

The result of all these policy changes is clear: According to state reports, court clerks in Virginia assessed $618 million in fines and fees in fiscal year 2014, up from $323 million (not adjusted for inflation) in 2002.

But the amount of fees actually collected by the state is much lower. Virginia only collected $258.6 million in 2014, compared to $218 million in 2002.

The Legal Aid Justice Center says these numbers suggest the threat of license suspension doesn't increase debt collection (41 percent of all cases between 2008 and 2012 resulted in default, according records provided to the group by the Virginia Auditor of Public Accounts). Instead it just adds another substantial burden to people already living paycheck to paycheck.

"It just steamrolls and gets worse and worse," Richmond public defender Tracy Paner said. "I had people in court today who had been convicted six times previously for driving on a suspended license."

Taylor currently owes more than $4,000 to four different county courts in Virginia. Even if he paid off his existing court debts and became eligible to get his license back, he would have to pay another $145 in license reinstatement fees. Meanwhile, his outstanding debts will continue to mount because of the 6 percent annual interest rate on all unpaid court fines levied by the state.

If Taylor had been convicted of a more serious felony driving offense, like reckless driving that resulted in a death, and he had the means to pay off the fines, he would have been legally back on the road a long time ago. Under Virginia law, the maximum length of a license suspension for reckless driving that results in the death of another person is 12 months.

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  1. Virginia is for revenue lovers.

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    3. The Communistwealth of Virginia is for big government

    4. Being the birthplace of American liberty one might think Virginia would not be the place perpetually pushing the envelope of statism. It is a decidedly weird place.

      But then again, in many ways it actually is the old version of liberty, where social control over the public square is entirely within the prerogatives of the legislature.

      1. the oppressed often become the oppressors

      2. the oppressed often become the oppressors

        1. No, that is not quite the history of Virginia, or American Independence. The sort of social control exerted by the current Virginia legislature is entirely in keeping with the sort of social control they practiced as the House of Burgesses way back when they were happy British colonists. And the exact same sort as practiced by Parliament back in Mother England.

          1. IOW that sort of social control was not what they were looking to get out from under when the declared our independence. If anything it was exactly the sorts of things they wanted to keep on doing, and did keep on doing.

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  2. I learned a new word today:

    “Cuntacolypse”

    n. A disaster caused by people being cunts.

    That is all.

    1. … usage example.

      The crybaby whining of the Law and Order crowd turned the comment thread into a real cuntacolypse.

  3. Way to cherry-pick. I doubt the other 900,000 people were in the hospital the day of their court date.

    1. Yeah, they probably all TOTALLY deserved it. After all, the police never just harass innocent people so they can generate revenue from them. I mean, do you think they’re humans or something instead of virtuous enforcers of truth and light?

      1. Seriously though, the stories were weak. I’m totally on the libertarian side on this one, but this stary just had me smirking. $99 for ignoring govt fines and registration/licensing requirements? Gasp! What a dystopia Virginia has become. Meanwhile in california I had one close to $500 for a rolling stop when making a right turn at a red light. Is there anywhere in the country you can get away with just saying f it regarding licensing and tickets?

        1. You’re missing the point. VA can lock you up for not paying a ticket. A suspension is similarly draconian when you consider most people need to drive to get to work (as the article mentions).

          Had this happen to me once in VA. Officer pulled me over and found out I had an unpaid ticket from 5 years ago. He made me tow my car out of state. I couldn’t get unsuspended until my court date, which was six weeks later. There is no option to pay the fine and get unsuspended until then. I was furious, even though I could have paid any crazy fines they could have possibly thrown at me for an unpaid minor moving violation. I was lucky I didn’t live in VA, because if I had been, I would surely have had to drive on a suspended licence in VA to be able to work. (I live and work mainly in DC.)

          1. I’m not here to defend this fascism. but again, it sounds pretty par for the course. Don’t you get arrested in every state for not paying a ticket? California will even suspend your license for unpaid parking tickets.

            I know someone who went through the license suspension bs in california (I think they got two tickets–and paid them–within a 12 month period or something). It also took freaking forever to resolve it. The DMV punts you off to some other office that’s open 9-2, 4 days a week. And the waiting room is always mobbed with people who look way too old to be driving.

            1. Don’t you get arrested in every state for not paying a ticket?

              No. You need like ten unpaid tickets in Illinois before getting arrested. Of course, in IL if you get a ticket your license is taken away (physically not legally; you are allowed to drive on the ticket, but good luck boarding an airplane).

              Shit, if they arrested people in IL for not paying a ticket, the state would have collapsed 50 years ago.

    2. The more important question is why you need permission to drive in the first place.

      1. Shorter Florida Hipster:

        Look over there! A squirrel.

      2. Probably because a vehicle can be a several ton wrecking ball in the hands of your average moron. Lets face it, the test to get your license is so easy you can give it to almost any 18 year old and they’ll pass with flying colors.

        You only need a license to drive on Public roads, if you’re on your own property you can do whatever you damn well please with that vehicle. If you’re on a public road it seems fair enough that you should be able to demonstrate that you won’t kill someone within five minutes of getting on the road.

        1. Really? You think getting a little piece of plastic from a government drone makes someone a safe driver? Like people don’t have any incentive not to kill themselves and others in a car crash until the government checks them off.

        2. BYODB The public roads are just that – public. Public means that it belongs to the people; it’s your property as much as any other man’s. Public property does not belong to the government.

          You imply that the license means that you have demonstrated that “…you won’t kill someone within five minutes of getting on the road.” If that’s the only reason for the license, how does a suspended license suddenly mean you can’t use your car safely?

        3. Raise the gas tax to $15 per gallon and the morons will no longer drive. Guaranteed.

      3. its just a tax to go to work or the store. gasoline tax tax goes to the roads, its just theft

        1. The gas tax doesn’t go to roads, it’s just another general fund tax.

    3. Does Tasty Butthole refer to the times you’re tonguing a cop’s ass?

  4. Wow, so you’re telling me that if you receive a fine or are summoned to appear in court and you decide to ignore the fine or not show up in court, the state will take retaliatory measures against you? Knock me over with a feather bro! Which state is the one where if you don’t show up, they say “Ahh, that’s OK, no big deal” and don’t do anything at all? Oh right, that would be none of them.

    Come on Reason, this bullshit isn’t real news. Why don’t you talk about the $400 million Obama just unilaterally decided to pay Iran to get back a few of our hostages? That seems just a little more newsworthy to me, but what the hell do I know.

    1. That was my point, but better stated.

      1. You are both idiots.

        1. Possibly true, but entirely irrelevant.

    2. It’s a pretty brilliant plan. People owe you money, take away their ability to make money, profits!

      1. Look, I hate getting busted by the fuzz for illegal parking and speeding just like every normal person does. But when you do, your choices are to either pay the fine or fight the charge, and most of the time you’ll lose and end up paying the charge anyway.

        The people who think “Maybe if I just refuse to pay, they’ll forget all about it and it’ll be like nothing ever happened” are the kind of people I like to call “morons”.

        1. Unless they have to chose between buy food, pay rent or pay the fine. The successful collection of fines would increase if they would allow payment plans and not knee cap people trying to get to work.

          1. They do those things. Go to court and tell the judge about the situation, generally they will immediately chop the fine down too. The judge asks how much time you need and refer you to some kind of payment plan system they have there. They want to work with people to extract as much money as they can after all.

        2. I know a guy who stopped paying the registration fee when his old car got totaled. He also didn’t bother paying the “cancel registration” fee either, which seemed equally pointless. The fines started at $15 and they kept adding on and on until he was contacted by a lawyer for the state notifying him that he owed several hundred dollars in fines by this point, and they would be taking it out of his paychecks. Always struck me as silly, why then not just take the $15 from his paycheck in the first place?

            1. Well yeah. I mean it’s silly that people tolerate this system which ultimately results in forced extraction of fines anyway.

          1. Wait, what? You don’t have to continue paying a registration fee on a car that has been totaled, and I’ve never heard of a “cancel registration fee” either.

            All you should have to do is notify your jurisdiction that your car has been totaled. Which is especially important if you’re in one of those states that levies a “personal property tax” on your vehicle, because if you don’t, they’ll assume that you still own the vehicle and they’ll continue to assess the property tax on it to you every year.

            1. what you “should have to do”, and what happens, are usually drastically different in most cases with government.

              I had a letter from the state AG a few years ago, saying they’d prosecute me, because I didn’t pay the $50 “late registration fee” and subsequent late fees for a class at the state college that I had added to my “cart” for registration, then removed once I saw it generated a late registration fee. never went to class, never registered, but because I clicked the button it cost me $125. and wasn’t worth getting a lawyer to fight.

          2. its hard to negotiate with terrorists

          3. its hard to negotiate with terrorists

        3. I agree.

          I used to live in Virginia and a few years ago got pulled over for rolling through a stop sign. The trooper than informed me that my license was suspended, but did allow me to drive the two miles home on my promise I wouldn’t go anywhere else (on threat of jail if I didn’t.)

          Turns out a few months before I was late paying a ticket, but I did pay it. The courthouse had the record, but DMV didn’t. Then I had to go to DMV and get a new license because they destroyed my old one, and also had to get a birth certificate to get that new license because my picture on their PC screen wasn’t enough proof that I was me.

          It’s worse in Pennsylvania. If you get any traffic ticket, even for an expired inspection sticker, you have ten days to pay the fine, guilty or innocent. If you do plead innocent, you pay the money then go to trial. If you win they give you the money back.

          However, I’ve found the district magistrates easy to work with. The last time I was not required to pay the full amount up front. I offered $50 down and they accepted. I got the bill reduced by the judge, but I still owed another $200 and setup a payment plan.

        4. Now there was the time several years ago I had that expired sticker and didn’t have my insurance card on me. I promised the trooper I’d fax it to him and did. I then paid the fine. Two months later I had a warrant issued for my arrest because the trooper said I didn’t fax the insurance card to him. I printed out the fax log and showed it to the magistrate who dropped the charges, but I still had to pay $75 to have them revoke the arrest warrant. Then the trooper said, “If you would have just faxed it in, you wouldn’t have had this problem…” ten minutes after the magistrate ruled that I HAD faxed it. Idiot.

      2. I like the part abt you losing if you can’t make it to one of their court dates somewhere distant and inconvenient. This is like asset forfeiture where your property is presumed looted unless you show up and prove otherwise, with no appeal. You’d think the LP could walk away with all the elections in a land where this sort of thing is permitted…

    3. Are you too stupid to form an opinion about the hostage buyout unless reason puts out an article for you to bitch about?

      Trick question, I know you are.

      1. No, no! it is hostage buyback!!!

    4. No, C.J. actually has a point here.

      Hobbling the lives of 10+ percent of the population and treating them like tax cattle in addition to the serious economic impact should get the lot of the pols chippered.

    5. Reason already put out an article talking about that very thing, so your argument is invalid on that point.

      I’d say the ability for 900,000 American’s to be able to get to work to pay their bullshit fines to the government is a far more pressing issue.

      Although in another vein, would you prefer American hostages be executed in Iran rather than taking measures to free them? Or are we suggesting that we should go to war with Iran so they don’t take hostages? They’ll take the hostages either way since it’s a super convenient propaganda technique for their regime to be able to trot out ‘CIA Operatives’ any time they want.

      1. Reason already put out an article talking about that very thing

        Oh really? Where is it exactly?

      2. Paying the ransom makes the taking of hostages profitable, which incentivizes them to take more hostages. Iran has already snatched more since the January payment.

    6. Because this sort of shit is more likely to have a significant impact on the lives of people in Virginia than that 400 million. Also, what Sug said…

    7. The hostages owed parking tickets, and lack of signs in English is not considered an excuse. Why don’t Virginians organize as hostages and ask the Dems to pay the state government’s fines?

      1. isn’t that the plot to the BLM movie?

    8. Not everybody can take the time off from work to haul off to wherever the traffic court is just to appear before some ass of a judge. It makes more sense to many people to just say “f* it” and hope you don’t get pulled over in the future.

  5. Wait a second, this is saying it’s unconstitutional to fine poor people. Someone please tell me I’m reading this wrong.

    1. I think its saying that it is unconstitutional to continue escalating judicial action against people who are too indigent to pay the fine in the first place. They aren’t “refusing” to comply, they are unable to.

      1. That’s not where I’m going. The reason they can’t pay the fine should be completely irrelevant. If people who are unable to pay a fine can’t be fined because it violates the constitution, why the fuck can anybody be fined?

        1. No, it isn’t irrelevant. If a person without money gets thrown in a cage for not paying a debt to a private party, that’s unconstitutional. The State has claimed a special privilege, and people are suing over whether or not the State has that special privilege.

          1. They aren’t getting thrown in a cage. They are having, what is now stupidly, a government issued privilege taken away.

            1. They aren’t getting thrown in a cage.

              Not yet, maybe. But a lot of people get arrest warrants issued, and get arrested, for failure to pay piddly-ass fines.

              Have we forgotten that the penalty for violating any law includes arrest and imprisonment?

            2. Texas law, YMMV

              You don’t get thrown in jail the first time. But if you are convicted a second time, it’s 6 months. Plus fines, plus impound and towing fees.

              If you are convicted of knowingly driving with a suspended license, it is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a find up to $500. It is a Class B misdemeanor ? up to six months in a county jail ? if you have been previously convicted, or previously had your license suspended for DWI.

              It is also a Class B offense not to surrender your license to the state upon demand after your suspension.

              1. That overlooks that failing to pay a fine, any fine, is grounds for arrest.

                1. Driving with a suspended license will definitely get you arrested. God forbid you have old Krispy Kreme flakes on your floorboard, since you’ve given the cop PC by operating a vehicle illegally. Etc, etc.

            3. It’s like the shit going down around Saint Louis the last few years never happened.

          2. It’s also a good way to reply to people who view the petty financial tyrannies of the state as the “cost” of civilization. When you’re poor, some of them are not so petty. For example, getting your car towed in San Francisco will cost you no less than $500 for the first day and then $200 PER DAY until they take your car for non-payment.

            1. Welcome to the logic of progressive taxation.

              Consider whether it is more freedom killing than the alternative.

              1. The alternative being take all the money then redistribute it fairly?

                1. No, not all the money, but thank you for so lazily emphasizing why your anti-tax dogmatism doesn’t stand up to any scrutiny. Maybe try again without the absurd straw man?

            2. Or, ‘for example’, that the ultimate price of any traffic citation is prison time if you don’t or can’t pay the ticket.

      2. Well then they should stop trying to go to work, get on welfare, take a private loan to pay the government debt, declare bankruptcy and be a drain on society. Do I have to think of everything?

        1. You missed buying a horse and cart (no license needed), like in Amish land, and driving at whatever speed a horse cart can make down Florida’s typical country two-lane roads.

          Stack the traffic up a few miles at 6 miles an hour and see how long it takes for the officials to come around.

          1. “there will be no untaxed horses in this kingdom!”

          2. Actually, given what I have heard about Florida drivers, you’re more likely to exhaust the county’s roadkill cleanup budget from removing all the horse carcasses. Maybe that will get somebody’s attention.

    2. why arent rich peoples fines more based on their income?

  6. Turns out that my drivers license was suspended for 14 months due to the fact that I kept a Florida license (because I wanted to maintain residency until I sold my primary residence), but failed to have Florida insurance. Total problems caused: Zero. I went to the DMV when I moved back to FL, paid a $150 fee in addition to the usual extortions for DL and tags, and went on my merry way. Of course, had I been pulled over at any time, I probably would have been jailed . Did the cops not picking me as a speeder justify my $150 and no problems any more than someone else taking the exact same actions and now having $2500 in fines and perhaps jail time? No. Also, suspended licenses aren’t worth killing people over.

  7. Is there a pejorative for Virginians anyone can lend me? “Dupes”? “Rubes”?

    Maybe I should just drive through Fairfax with a black friend and see what he says on route.

    1. Virgins
      Vaginians
      Cuckginians

    2. Fairfax is not really Virginia. It’s Greater DC, part of the rapacious monster that is steadily swallowing up the state and turning it into another proggie hellhole.

      1. It’s all No(t)VA up there.

      2. It’s all No(t)VA up there.

      3. It’s all No(t)VA up there.

  8. It’s such a pity that we can’t raise actual taxes on actual people with money these days, otherwise states and localities might be able to do away with some of this freedom-killing DMV revenue generation bullshit.

    1. $1.48 trillion: government collects record high taxes in first half of fiscal year 2016.

      The government is pulling in revenue hand over fist like never before, and as you damn well know, almost all of that money is coming from the “haves”.

      The problem is that (Krug) scum like you can’t rein in your insane spending habits. You’re like a crazy woman hopeslly addicted to the Hope Shopping Network.

      1. Okay, the reason this factoid tends to only show up on dirty rightwing news sources and in Republican talking points is because it’s misleading bullshit with an agenda. Nominal dollars are not a useful measure, of course. Revenues as a percentage of GDP remain quite low for the United States relative to similarly advanced countries (although it ticked up after the expiration of some of the Bush tax cuts [which didn’t do a damn thing for the economy]).

        Of course I wasn’t talking about federal taxes at all. The point is that states and localities in lieu of actually taxing people enough to pay for shit are doing this backdoor taxation on the poor stuff that libertarians tend to rightly abhor. I suggest that if libertarians want to increase actual freedom in real people’s lives, they have to sacrifice the Grover Norquist dogma bullshit, because protecting the apparently all-important “freedom” of billionaires not paying a cent extra in income taxes does have consequences for everyone else.

        1. State and local revenue today comes overwhelmingly from three sources: income tax witholding, sales and gross receipts taxes, and property taxes.

          While the exact percentages of these vary considerably from state to state, the category that has exploded by far the most in recent years is the property tax category, and this burden of course falls most heavily on the “haves”, actual property owners. When all the states are combined together, the property taxes is the biggest state and local revenue generator of all, having somewhat recently surpassed the sales tax category.

          1. Um, property taxes are regressive. Overall this country’s tax burden is even-to-regressive, and much less progressive than other decent countries. This is not really in dispute, so the argument I’m putting forth is that these oppressive local revenue generation schemes are a direct result of this country’s reluctance to raise income taxes either at the federal or state level. And of course these backdoor taxes are completely regressive.

    2. You are a funny guy Tony. I forget whose sock puppet you are, but really, that is a good one.

    3. It’s also a pity that it burns your skin to imagine scaling back government without needing to replace it with more government, but such is life.

      1. I’d be happy dismantling much of the so-called criminal justice system that is funded by these schemes.

        1. I’d be happy dismantling much of the so-called criminal justice system that is funded by these schemes.

          But putting them in charge of healthcare is bound to work out, right? After all, criminal justice is much harder than the practice of medicine.

  9. Why would anyone – including the author – believe that one needs a license to travel from place to place in your property (car)? Yes, driving is a privilege because driving is a commercial activity. If you get paid for operating a vehicle on the public roads, you are driving. If you are just using your car to go from place to place, you are not driving. No license required.
    Oh, i forgot; everyone’s been dumbed down by government schools, sycophant media and clueless, government educated and government dependent lawyers.
    Government was instituted by the people to protect our rights and property; it is our servant, not our master to dictate our behavior.

    1. Wut?

      1. I think he’s referring to the urban myth that a supreme court ruling declared the stuff he said, but while the relevant case (a Virginia SC ruling from the 1930s) does establish that driving on public roads is a right and not a privilege, states and cities using their police power are entitled to set rules for doing so, including requiring licenses, as long as the rules are reasonable and apply to everyone equally.

        1. Correct, Tony — and the case you cite controls only Virginia. It specifically was rejected in Florida. I’m trying to get that modified, but until I do, it’s not the law here.

    2. This is why we organize parties, write platforms, run candidates, earn spoiler votes and change laws. It gets results better than the “everyone but me is a dummie” anarchist line.

    3. You are quite correct: Driving is a right, not a privilege.

      Any cop that writes traffic tickets is not a real American.

      Real Americans don’t do that to each other.

  10. Here’s something no one ever seems to realize. The judge, or administrative hearing officer in a “traffic” case, cannot order you to pay more than you can afford. Offer to pay whatever you feel you can afford on a periodic basis and be done with the matter. Offer $1 a week or $1 a month or whatever you want. A refusal to accept the offer is a discharge of the debt. That’s a maxim of law; they can’t get around it.

    1. JayMan, I’m pretty sure everything in that comment is in error.

      1. What do you know? Are you some sort of lawyer?

        Oh wait, you are.

  11. I tried to find the law in Virginia quickly but to no avail. However, someone with enough determination may be able to find a statute containing limitations on suspensions such as Conn.Gen.Stat. sec. 14-140(b) or Fla.Stat. sec. 318.15(1)(a). These laws limit suspensions in these two states for non-payment of fines to seven years.

    I am involved in similar litigation if Florida, under sec. 318.15(1)(a), and I can report that BOTH Connecticut’s AND Florida’s DMVs are ignoring these laws as a matter of policy.

    Another issue, perhaps relevant for the lady who was in the hospital: Suspension of an existing license, where safety is not an issue, cannot be effected without proper notice and a pre-termination hearing — this per Bell v. Burson, a U.S. Supreme Court case from 1971. I’m finding that Florida’s DMV is not taking this requirement seriously either. If Virginia’s are in that camp, the affected lady may be able to defend or even enjoin the attack on her license for want of due process.

    Please advise anyone who knows anything further about this! Serious replies only please (I’m not interested in pseudo-knowledge responses from those who don’t believe driver’s licenses are needed — no judge is going to hear that).

    1. See? Nullification works for some people…

  12. R C Dean; I’m positive it is not in error. You just have to make it very clear that you’re a man, not a subject of whatever gov’t entity you’re dealing with and stand your ground against that man acting as a gov’t agent (magistrate).

    That’s the easy way to deal with that administrative BS. The more difficult way is to really be a man and require a man to testify that you caused him harm or injury. There’s no one to testify. No case.

    Of course, all the “traffic” cases are administrative and the contention is that when you applied for a driver’s license you entered into a contract. However, without full disclosure, a contract cannot be valid and binding.

    1. The philosophical merits of this position will run aground on the rocks of bureaucracy and law, JayMan.

      Try it. Pick up a traffic ticket, go to court, tell the judge you’re going to pay a dollar a month for as long as you feel like it, and see what happens.

      1. It’s unfortunate that even very creative use of italics, bolt and quotes don’t make sovereign citizen-esque arguments any more compelling… Or cogent.

  13. Blood withdrawal? Virginians would let those looters stick them with a possibly septic needle? We finally have a State whose voters are too stupid to deserve to have a Libertarian Party on the ballot. Hopefully the state platform committee will milk this extortion racket for spoiler votes.

  14. Do Americans don’t have the cajones to begin to correct a myth that got started long ago? Driving is a privilege, not a right.

    Bullshit. That notion needs to end now.

    Driving is a right, not a privilege.

    Cops that write traffic tickets are not real Americans: They belong in Caracus?or Havana?.or Ho Chi Minh City.

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  17. Sounds like there’s an opportunity in Virginia for license forgerers.

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  19. Back in the 1980s, my license was suspended for a year. My car still started and drove just fine. It didn’t slow me down in the slightest.

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    ?????????? http://www.factoryofincome.com

  21. “…and paying family members to take me grocery shopping. It was horrible.”

    Paying? What kind of barbaric act is that? Without family you got nothing and if you are taking payment to help a family out you’re a pod.

    I’ve had to help friends and family alike – FREE OF CHARGE because it’s not something you should expect payment for.

    Gas expense, time blah, blah and my ass.

  22. I am one of the nine digit suspndees. This is the most backward state ever when it comes to criminal justice.

    The great, I hope, thing is, that I never had a drivers license in VA. My car was never registered there before my ex stole it and crashed it. The license was always valid, no points in TX. They gave me the letter that I have no automobile privileges in VA. Fines not paid. Who the hell can pay their fines when they are in jail and don’t even get the notice?

    So I’m taking my good ole boy valid TX license and getting changed to the new state where I live. Since I was never registered for anything in VA, I’m hoping their unconstitutional bullshit will not follow me.

    DOJ, under Obama, already found their automatic suspension for failure to pay fines unconstitutional. But that was just an opinion. I’m willing to bet that Sessions will scrap it. Hope that the advocates keep it up. How the hell are you going to make money to pay your fines if you can’t drive? It’s a privilege not a right, but the courts in VA are fucked up. I can’t get there to make my case for a conditional license when I live in the boonies and don’t have a car.

    Been there, done that, left the state because of it.

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