Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Highway robbery, W.Va. Style

In the last few years, West Virginia has resorted to increasing "court costs," or additional fees added to criminal convictions from traffic tickets to serious crimes, for paying for many aspects of the criminal justice system. Who could oppose making the criminals pay for things like operating the jails, funding the Crime Victims Compensation fund, and maintaining courthouses? Me, when by criminals you mean everyone down to people who commit petty infractions for which the actual fine might be as little as a MAXIMUM of $5, such as speeding by 10 mph or less on interstates and controlled-access highways.

The Charleston Daily Mail had a good editorial Monday about how the state adds $153.50 to the most minor infraction and how this practice has become very popular in recent years as the Legislature tried to create the impressions that it is tough on crime and that it's not raising taxes. West Virginia's highways may not seem like a police state compared to our neighbors in the Buckeye State or the Old Dominion where a smokey seems to lurk behind every bridge abutment, but how much more will we really take?

While this would be about item #30 on my own agenda if I were in the Legislature, I propose that the Legislature exempt offenses not punishable by a possible jail sentence from the following court costs:
  1. $48.50 for the per diem regional jail fee.
  2. $40 for the Regional Jail Authority.
  3. $30 for the regional jail operating fund.
  4. $10 for the crime victims fund.
  5. $3 for the community corrections fund.

Finally, for those of you seeking the kind of organization the Daily Mail suggests, may I recommend to you the National Motorists Association? The NMA, founded in 1982, was THE organization that led the successful fight in the 80's and 90's to relax and ultimately repeal the 55 mph National Maximum Speed Limit. Today, their network of volunteer activists continue the fight for reasonable speed limits based on sound traffic engineering principles, to prevent the abuse of motorists for revenue generation, and advocate the interests of North American motorists.