Virginia Bicyclist Hit With “Abusive Driver Fee” Tax

January 21, 2008

We’ve been following Virginia’s new tax on traffic offenses, which went into effect January 1. They are another example of legislators targeting random activities for punitive taxation, solely to raise revenue. Other recent examples include cigarettes, alcohol (to fund public transit), bottled water, and even video games (to fund juvenile detention facilities).

Because the purpose of the surcharges is to raise money, rather than deter behavior or recoup the cost of administration, they are rightly called taxes, not fees. And they aren’t small; a pregnant woman rushing to the hospital (57 mph in a 35 mph zone) was hit with a $1,050 abusive driver tax on top of the usual $100 traffic fine.

Now, a bicyclist has been ordered by the Newport News district court to cough up the $1,050 surcharge for going too fast on his 18-speed Huffy:

Bicyclist Kajuan Cornish, 19, has not accumulated a bad driving record because he does not own an automobile. That did not stop Newport News Police Officer George Evans for writing up Cornish as he pedaled down Warwick Boulevard near Denbigh Boulevard on December 27. Cornish was headed back to work after taking a lunch break.

WAVY-TV has more of the silliness:

Cornish says his reckless driving ticket might one day be funny, if it weren’t so confusing.

“I get some people who laugh,” he says, “and I get some people, like me, that are lost.”

He reads his ticket out loud.

“Year? None. Make? None. Type? Bike. License? None. State? None.”

Cornish may be among the last who have to fight the surcharges. They’re in court on an Equal Protection Clause challenge, and the Governor recently conceded that it’s time to repeal them.

More on Virginia tax issues here.

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