• What were the “serious or multiple” traffic offenses on which the “bad driver taxes” were based?

    I’m suspicious of a report which is all about tales of woe and how something is “unfair”, without any description of what it is that’s supposed to be unfair. A “homeless father of five” didn’t become homeless over a couple $thousand in fines (or, taxes, since I’ll agree that’s what all fines really are), nor did he become a father of five due to the fines (unless his traffic offenses were based on activities while parked, and failure to get a room).

    Serious traffic violations cause accidents, which cause property damages, injuries and deaths to others. So, some elaboration of the behavior that was to be suppressed or punished, and the victims of that behavior, is warranted. Someone who rear-ends and injures another driver because s/he was texting while driving, or who put children in danger by blowing past a stopped school bus at 55 MPH, isn’t going to generate much sympathy for the “unfair” fine imposed.

    • Wfjag,

      The law itself can be found here: http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2003-2004/publicact/pdf/2003-PA-0165.pdf

      Page two lists the offenses and the fees / penalties / “taxes” for them.

      The odd thing to me is that with the passage of this bill, those who owe money will have their debts cancelled. It seems that those who did pay the fees won’t get their money back or anything like that.

      It is almost as if you don’t like the law and can’t pay the fines, you will eventually have your debt wiped off the books. If you followed the law and forked over the dough, well, thank you for your contribution to the Michigan General Fund.

  • Thanks. Interesting procedure — and, kinda scary. The Mich Sec State assesses and collects the “fees”, and remits them to the Mich Treasury, and, also, sends notices to the drivers, and, suspends driving privileges for non-payment. There’s no procedure established for challenging any of this (e.g., you sent notice to the wrong address, or, I wasn’t convicted of the offense — another person with the same or similar name was, or, I was a victim of identity theft, or, I was acquitted of the charge and convicted of a lesser offense so the assessment is too high, etc.), so, the only way to seek a correction is by filing a suit for an extraordinary writ of some sort, assuming that Mich. sovereign immunity doctrine allows such an action. If you can’t pay a fee of a few $hundred, it’s doubtful you can afford to hire a lawyer on an hourly basis to challenge an assessment, even if clearly erroneous. But, your license is suspended — without any provision for to/from emergency services, or grocery store, or work — so, you can be ticketed (and a fee assessed) for driving with a suspended license, even if the original suspension is erroneous. Further, since it’s an assessment, not a fine or court cost, it isn’t controlled by the judiciary. And, it’s not a tax, although funds collected are remitted to the treasury. So, the assessment isn’t among the traditional categories of items that can be challenged despite sovereign immunity, and, so, unless Mich has enacted some sort of sovereign immunity waiver covering these assessments, there may be no action which can be brought in the state courts for challenging the assessment and any punishment for non-payment.

    While I don’t see anything inherently unfair about the assessments – I don’t think that a $1,000 assessment for neg hom, or violating the Mich Natural Resources and Enviro Quality Act, is necessarily excessive or unfair — the procedure appears to permit (or, encourage) piling on, and so that is unfair, since it’s not controlled by the courts. If, although permitted by the 14th Amendment allowing indefinite suspension of voting rights, a felon is entitled to restoration of voting rights when s/he completes his/her sentence, then, it would seem that payment of the fine and performance of whatever punishment is imposed by the courts for a moving violation, and payment of any court costs assessed, should be the end of the matter. Instead, the Mich Sec of State assesses additional “fees” and imposes punishments if those are not paid, timely and in full, without any pre-assessment due process, or a procedure to challenge the assessment or punishments in advance. That’s scary.

    • I’m about 90% sure that sovereign immunity doesn’t cover a situation where you’re just trying to keep your own money (as opposed to trying to make the state pay you for something.)