Well, it all depends, doesn’t it? Georgia is now following suit with states like Michigan, Texas, and New York by whacking speeders with fines over and above what they’ve already paid locally. This “secondary punishment” is only applicable, for now, to super-speeders, people accused of driving over 85 mph in the state or over 75 mph on a two-lane road. (Don’tcha love it? What about driving over 60 mph on a dirt road?)
They tried this sort of double taxation in Virginia in 2008, but repealed it and refunded the monies collected. Fines of $1,000 and $3,000 had been imposed on speeders there. In New York, they have something called a Driver Responsibility Assessment, which can hit you each year with a $250 penalty for drug- or alcohol-related violations and with graduated fees for six points and more on your license.
Texas has a similar law, with a $1,000 annual fine—pardon me, “surcharge”—and $250 for driving without insurance or a valid license. But let’s go back to New York, where the real problem comes in the penalties assessed for ignoring tickets. In most cases, says one traffic violation attorney, defending yourself in court will likely get you a reduction in penalties and cost a great deal less in money and grief than putting those tickets in a drawer.
Lawyer Casey Raskob tells of one client who ignored five tickets, felt he didn’t deserve them, and had a “not bad” driving record. The state convicted him,
charging him the maximum legal fine on each ticket. Each ticket resulted in a suspension. Thirty days later, they then suspended him a second time for failure to pay the fine. Five tickets end up with ten suspensions. An eleventh suspension is then levied for failure to pay the ‘Driver Responsibility Assessment’, which is a tax New York charges on drivers who get more than six points (one 77/55 ticket).
The tickets were, with suspension termination fees, $2,145.00. To this, add another $1,050.00 in Driver Responsibility Assessments and yet another $70.00 suspension termination fee. This totals almost $3,000.00 in fines and fees to New York State.
The point is, the guy could have avoided it all by abiding by the law. But is the law’s reaction overly punitive? And what kind of double taxation is this? And does it really raise revenue after all? (See Virginia, above.) In Texas, over 1.5 million licenses were automatically suspended after drivers failed to pay the tax. The state charged “restoration fees,” but two-thirds of the suspendees simply ignored that and kept driving without a license or insurance.
States are broke and looking for all kinds of ways to increase revenue. Is double taxation the way to do it?