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Civil fees ruling due next week

The first circuit judge to consider the constitutionality of Virginia’s civil remedial fees said he hopes to rule next week.

Henrico Judge L.A. Harris Jr. heard brief arguments today from prosecutor Duncan P. Reid and from defense attorney Craig S. Cooley, who is representing Anthony O. Price along with Esther J. Windmueller.

General District Judge Archer L. Yeatts III convicted Price last week of a fifth offense of driving on a suspended license but refused to impose $750 in civil fees because he found them unconstitutional.

Yeatts said he could conceive of no rational basis for applying the fees to Virginia residents but not to out-of-state drivers in light of the legislative purpose set forth in Virginia Code § 46.2-206.1: “to generate revenue from drivers whose proven dangerous driving behavior places significant financial burdens on the Commonwealth.”

Harris then granted the expedited review required by Code § 16.1-131.1.

He asked Cooley today whether the legislature could have been rational in assuming that residents use state roads more than non-residents and that the state would have a much greater chance of collecting the fees from Virginians.

Cooley responded that there is “no reason to distinguish between an out-of-state and an in-state dangerous driver” in the context of providing money for transportation.

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