Driver Responsibility Fees Finally Phasing Out
Last year Governor Snyder signed into law the eventual phasing out of Michigan’s driver responsibility fees. And on October 1st, stage one finally went into effect.
The driver responsibility fee, which District Court Judge William Kelly called “a tax on the poorest people in our state” is assigned to people convicted of reckless driving, drunk driving and driving without a license. But this year marks the first stage in this fee finally working it’s way out of the system, to much rejoicing.
The change, however, will not happen overnight. The plan is to phase out the fees over a period of three years, with the fines decreasing every year. People charged the fee this year will still be required to pay the full $1,000, with next year’s fee dropping to $500.
However in 2016, while the first fee will still be $1,000, there will be no follow up fee the next year. In 2017, the first year fee will be only $500, and by 2018 all fees will have been completely phased out.
While many people are very glad to know that this prohibitively expensive fine is on it’s way out, there are those who are sad to see it go. And the state treasury is probably at the top of that list. Driver responsibility fees have earned the treasury about $100 million thus far in additional revenue.
But it’s the $600 million in unpaid and delinquent fees that should indicate some of the difficulty that this “driver tax” has imposed on people in Michigan. As Judge Kelly explained when he spoke in front of the state House committee back in May 2014, “It’s a second punishment for the same crime, double jeopardy.”
Judge Kelly was one of the most avid detractors of the driver responsibility fee. And primarily because of the toll he has seen it take on economically challenged people in Michigan. For people struggling to just pay their bills, a $1,000 fine is too much. And failure to pay it means that they could lose their license. Which means no transportation to a job. Which in turn means means no way to pay the fine in future either, due to loss of income.
For a number of our clients, the driver responsibility fee was just one more added burden in the face of many. Being charged with drunk driving could result in jail time, probation, court costs, attorneys fees and license restrictions. Thankfully, with the phasing out of the driver responsibility fee, there is one less issue for them to deal with in the future.