By on September 16, 2010

The Michigan state House of Representatives yesterday voted unanimously to repeal its so-called driver responsibility fee program, an unpopular tax on traffic citations. State Representative Bettie C. Scott (D-Detroit) was the primary sponsor of legislation that will end most of the fees by January 1, 2012 and, before then, cut the amount motorists owe by half.

“Obviously we must do what it takes to keep our roads safe for all travelers, but driver responsibility fees place an onerous and unnecessary financial burden on too many Michigan drivers,” Scott said in a statement. “The Driver Responsibility Act is flawed legislation that has failed the test of time. It has unfairly penalized our hard-working residents during one of the worst financial crises we’ve ever seen.”

Since 2004, Michigan has used the program to impose a tax of $300 to $2000 on certain driving offenses, plus an annual tax of $100 to $500 a year for anyone with more than seven points on his license. A package of four separate bills would remove the point tax and fees for everything except driving while intoxicated, failure to stop at an accident, eluding a police officer, reckless driving or any offense causing death or serious bodily injury.

Between 2004 and 2009, the state has assessed about $800 million in fees, only $400 million of which was actually paid. The National Motorists Association strongly opposed the fee program, pointing out that the state has some of the worst speed traps in the country, generating fees by setting speed limits that do not match the flow of traffic. The Michigan District Judges Association and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have also strongly endorsed repeal of the fees.

“People are frustrated with the ridiculous amount of money charged for minor infractions and penalties,” said state Representative Eileen Kowall (R-White Lake), sponsor of another bill in the repeal package. “These bills will help decrease the financial burden on drivers who already are being punished with large fines and court costs.”

If passed by the state Senate and signed by the governor, the Michigan repeal will become law. In 2007, the state of Virginia introduced a similar speeding ticket tax, called an “abuser fee” bill, which generated a storm of negative publicity. The legislature had no choice but to repeal the program in 2008, offering a full refund to those who paid.

A copy of House Bill 4098, as passed by the House, is available in a 50k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File House Bill 4098 (Michigan General Assembly, 9/15/2010)


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6 Comments on “Michigan House Votes to End Speeding Ticket Tax...”

  • avatar

    “Reckless Driving” seems like a charge which Officer Friendly may manipulate as he likes to fit any sort of moving violation. Hopefully I’m wrong about that one. But, as is so often the case, politicians parade some small concession they’ve made as wonderful news, all the while directing your attention away from abusive laws and statutes still in place which they fail to address.

    • 0 avatar

      In theory, that might be the case, but in practice, it seems less so. Probably because the cop would actually have to make a subjective judgment and then prove it against a defense. Fine if the case is blatant, too much work otherwise. Cops generally prefer laws in black and white. Did you go over the speed limit or not? Did you stop or not?

      As for the driver tax, New York still has it, it sucks big time, yet I haven’t heard of any significant push to get rid of it. Maybe my fellow NYers can educate me. But New York State’s government is so dysfunctional it’s a miracle they can do anything.

      Kudos to Michigan, anyway, for seeing the light. Virginia gets no credit until it cans its anti-radar-detector law.

  • avatar

    In the jursidiction where I live, an officer also has an option to charge a driver with “careless driving,” which is only a violation whereas “reckless driving” is a misdemeanor.  Purely subjective that in his/her mind you were doing something they didn’t like or thought was unsafe.  And who do you think a judge would side with?  The motorist or the popo… lesser charge, so lesser burden of proof on the officer.

    • 0 avatar

      Officers in Florida are reluctant to charge motorists with reckless driving. This is a misdemeanor charge and to get a conviction the officer has to prove intent which can be very difficult. Instead they frequently use the careless driving charge. This is a civil infraction and the officer only has to demonstrate that the driver was operating his vehicle in careless manner. This is much easier to prove, especially when the officer has video evidence.

  • avatar

    Those fees all go to the state, so local cops wouldn’t have any incentive to impose them. Also, the remaining fees are all for misdemeanors. Generally, cops don’t write and prosecutors don’t pursue misdemeanor tickets unnecessarily. They’re much more of a pain to prosecute than a civil infraction.

    This law was a regressive tax that created a legion of illegal motorists. I know several people who ended up driving with a suspended license because they couldn’t pay the thousand dollar fees. Then, once you get busted for driving with a suspended license, you get another couple thousand in fees. The hole gets deeper and people just give up trying to get out. It jacks your credit too. I hope they erase all outstanding fees as well, so these people can get back to being legal.

    • 0 avatar

      Looks like the house bill offers a 50% discount on outstanding fees that aren’t in the excepted categories (DUI etc.). BTW this law brought in $100 million per year. It’s going to be difficult to replace that revenue with our ideological anti-tax, pro-spending legislators that have no incentive to look beyond their term limits.

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