In 2002, the state of Michigan signed into law a policy aimed at penalizing drivers who repeatedly violate traffic safety laws. Driver responsibility fees, they were dubbed, and they range from $100 all the way up to $2,000. Since 2003, however, these fees have come under fire. They’ve been called nothing more than a government “money grab” which negatively impacts low-income drivers, as they are usually the ones who cannot afford to pay. This in turn leads to an endless cycle of debt and incarceration. Those in favor of the fees argue that nobody forces any drivers to violate the law and get hit with those fees in the first place.
As of now, there is over $600 million in outstanding driver responsibility fees that have not been paid to our state. And according to a spokesperson for Speaker of the House Tom Leonard, that isn’t going to change any time soon. “This money’s never coming in. It’s just putting a debt on people who can’t pay it.” So what can be done about it? Is there a solution to this massive issue that seems to be crippling so many Michigan drivers, and costing so many people their futures? Indeed there is…
A package of seven bills were introduced in the House last week that aim to phase out Michigan’s driver responsibility fees even faster, and ultimately forgive millions in past debt. In introducing the bills, Speaker of the House Leonard said that “Far too many working people who received a ticket and paid their fine were hit with new, difficult surcharges, often costing them their licenses, and then their jobs, and then their ability to ever pay off the mountain of debt.”
It’s been an ongoing battle. In 2011, Gov. Rick Snyder signed bills into law that did away with some of the fees. But some claim it wasn’t enough while others remind us that those same people continue to rack up more tickets. In 2014, the legislature acted again, and moved to phase out all fees in the future. This version of the law gave residents a one-year window in which they could opt for doing volunteer work instead of paying the fees. However this only applies to certain offenses. And it still put the phase out years into the future. The current bill package would have all fees eradicated within a year.
But what about all those drunk drivers, you may be wondering?
What’s to keep them from offending again and again without the driver responsibility fees in place to keep them in check. Ask Bellino and he’ll tell you – this issue was never about addressing specific crimes. Right from the start, it was about money. “This had nothing to do with deterring dangerous driving and everything to do with finding a way to fix an unbalanced budget in the previous administration. There is no evidence at all that paying the fees made anyone a better driver. Now those who were unable to drive to work have a fresh chance to succeed.” No studies have been cited that show that a fresh start helps to deter the same drives from re-offending so that still remains to be seen.
This would be a huge move for Michigan, considering we recently ranked as one of the top five harshest states for driver’s license suspension policies. In a study done by The Legal Aid Justice Center, they analyzed driver’s license suspension policies in all 50 states, and revealed that Michigan’s were some of the toughest! Only Delaware, Florida, Maine and Virginia come anywhere close to beating our “tough-on-crime” driver’s license suspension policies, which seem to mirror our very harsh driver responsibility fees.
Drunk and drugged drivers in Michigan are often faced with very high driver responsibility fees, in addition to other penalties like jail or prison time, ignition interlock requirements, license plate confiscation, and vehicle forfeiture. If you are arrested for drunk driving, or accused of operating under the influence of drugs, call The Kronzek Firm immediately at 866 766 5245. We have a long track record of success, fighting for our clients and getting great results!