In my practice I have seen clients that owe tens of thousands of dollars in road and bridge tolls. In most cases, they have traveled across one or more of Hampton Road’s toll bridges and failed to pay the tolls, administrative fees and penalties. It has been reported that some citizens are seeing tolls that exceed $100,000.00. In most cases, the citizen has traveled across the toll road multiple times per day for work – without paying the toll and collection fees.
In Virginia, a person can obtain an EZ Pass transponder that debits money from his account each time he travels through a toll facility. If the person does not have an EZ Pass, then a picture of his license is taken and a bill is mailed to him. Typically, the bill sent in the mail is for more than what he would have been charged had he purchased the EZ Pass – this is done to encourage people to use the EZ Pass. If the person does not pay the toll he received in the mail, then after a period of time, administrative fees are added. Ultimately, if the bill is never paid, then the toll facility can assess even more fees and collection costs and take the violator to General District Court and have a civil penalty added.
In the case of a person that travels through a toll facility twice daily for work, one can see how tolls, administrative fees and penalties can add up very quickly. Virginia lawmakers recently passed HB 1069 which went into effect on July 1, 2016 that limited the fees and penalties for a first toll infraction to $2,200.00. But that’s only for the first infraction, multiple infractions would cause a toll fees to reach into the tens of thousands – or more. I believe that tolls are and effective and fair way to raise money to build infrastructure. I believe that a person that travels through a toll without paying should have to pay additional fees, costs and penalties. The point of this Blog Post is not to suggest that tolls or penalties for toll violators should be eliminated. The purpose of this Blog Post is to demonstrate that the penalty for toll violators is excessive when compared to other civil fees and criminal penalties.
Section 46.2-819.3 (I) of the Virginia Code is very cleverly crafted to raise money for the corporations that build and operate the toll facilities without running afoul of the State or Federal law– unless you think $2,200.00 in collection fees for a $1.84 violation is cruel and unusual punishment. The Virginia statute that establishes the “civil penalties” for not paying your toll in a timely fashion very clearly states that, while it is assessed in traffic court, the penalty is a “civil penalty” and does not (1) add points to your driver’s license, (2) failure to pay will not result in the suspension of your driver’s license, and (3) failure to pay will not be reported to your insurance company. Other than the civil monetary judgment, the only action that can be taken against you is that the DMV can refuse to renew your automobile registration, which could lead to a criminal infraction if the car is driven without being properly registered.