Friday, August 3, 2007

Home Town Call

Henrico County Judge Archer L. Yeatts III declared Virginia's new abusive driver fees unconstitutional, on the ground that the violate the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause because they apply only to Virginia residents, not drivers from out of state who commit the same violations.

Hmm, I can't find the decision on line, but I just don't see it. Suppose a state said, "the annual driver's license fee in this state depends on the number of points you have on your driver's license. It's $25 if you have no points, but then it's an extra $25 for each point you have."

Could there be anything wrong with that? The state's driver's license fee would apply, necessarily, only to people who sought a driver's license from that state. Out of staters wouldn't have to pay it. But so what? Could that possibly violate the Equal Protection Clause? I don't see how a state can be prevented from having a driver's license fee system that varies according to the proven tendency of each driver to violate the state's laws.

Well, I shouldn't really pass judgment without having seen the court's opinion, or even the actual underlying law. The right outcome could depend on exactly how Virginia has the fees set up, I suppose. But it certainly seems to me that Virginia could set up its fees to be perfectly constitutional, by just making them a condition of one's Virginia driver's license. Then they naturally would apply only to people in Virginia.

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