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Posted about 9 years ago
Virginia is for lovers, or so the state slogan has declared since 1969. Starting Sunday, Virginia also will be the home of the $3,000 traffic ticket.
The new civil charges will range from $750 to $3,000 and be added to existing fines and court costs. The civil penalty for going 20 mph over the speed limit will be $1,050, plus $61 in court costs and a fine that is typically about $200.
Virginia's traffic law is one of several thousand new state laws that take effect Sunday. Jan. 1 and July 1 are the most popular dates for state laws to become official.
July 1 is especially popular for new taxes and fees because it's the start of the budget year in 46 states. For example, Arkansas will cut its sales tax on groceries from 6% to 3% Sunday.
A first-time drunken driver will face a $2,250 civil penalty, plus fines and court costs that typically run about $500 or more. Driving without a license? That's a mandatory $900 civil penalty, in addition to the ordinary $100 for a fine and court costs.
"It's outrageous," says traffic court attorney Thaddeus Furlong of Springfield, Va. "When Mr. and Mrs. Middle Class find out what they have to pay, there's going to be a backlash like you've never seen."
Some other states impose extra civil penalties for traffic offenses, but the cost is usually $100 or $200, Furlong says. "What sets this apart is the Draconian size of the civil penalties," he says.
Another difference: The civil penalties apply only to Virginia residents, not out-of-state drivers. Virginians must pay in three installments over 26 months or lose their licenses. The state Legislature didn't think it could enforce the extra penalties in other states.
Motorist club AAA Mid-Atlantic supports the new penalties.
"These penalties are harsh, but normal fines haven't gotten people to drive sanely. Maybe this will," says Lon Anderson, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic.
He says the new law will help reduce the nearly 1,000 traffic deaths the state records annually.
"We wish motorists didn't have to pay more, but the fact is Virginia's transportation trust fund is broke," Anderson says.