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DUI, DWI fines to decrease? Driver Responsibility Act under fire

Many Michigan residents feel that the state's Driver Responsibility Act is the modern day equivalent of debtor's prison. Some are calling for its repeal, or at least a rollback of the fines imposed. The law has been on the books since 2003, supposedly designed to improve traffic safety by the imposition of more onerous fees. Critics say the real purpose is a money grab by the state to fill its coffers. Those who don't pay the fees are faced with loss of driving privileges and rapidly escalating interest and penalties.

Some have called for an outright repeal of the law, following the path of states that passed and then repealed similar laws. Virginia passed and repealed a similar law within one year, while Texas is in the process of considering repeal of its law. One Michigan man who could not pay his fines was forced to continue driving with a suspended license to try and make the money to pay off the debt. The man eventually ended up owing more than $14,000 in fines to the state.

One seemingly draconian measure requires those fined to pay the same fine two years in a row. If the statute is repealed, and there is one proposed measure in the state House to do that, then fines for those convicted of DUI and DWI offenses could well be reduced. However, a corollary bill in the Senate would rescind fees for some violations but maintain the fines for things such as drinking and driving.

The repeal talk may or may not be good news for those accused of DUI and DWI offenses. Nevertheless, all fines should be part of an appropriate sentence and should not be levied solely to provide additional income to the government. Otherwise good people who may have simply had an error in judgment should not be indefinitely indebted to their state.

Source: AnnArbor.com, "Michigan lawmakers should repeal unreasonable driver responsibility fees," Tony Dearing, Oct. 16, 2011

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