Matt Worley, Esq.
In Michigan, many drivers feel the weight of Driver Responsibility Fees on their shoulders.
These fees are assessed by the State of Michigan to drivers who are found guilty of certain traffic misdemeanors. These fees are assessed in addition to any fines and costs that were assessed in the district court. The responsibility fees were created in 2003 at a time when the state was in dire financial straits as a way to generate cash flow.
Part of what makes the responsibility fees unique is the sheer size of the fee assessed. For example, if a person pleads guilty or is found guilty of driving on a suspended license, that person is assessed $1,000 in responsibility fees – paid out over two years. Similarly, if a person is convicted of operating while intoxicated, they are assessed a total fee of $2,000. Other common offenses that have responsibility fees include reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident, and various drunk/drugged driving offenses.
The problem with these responsibility fees is that they are so large they often send the state’s poorest people in a downward financial spiral that, for many, is nearly impossible to escape from. The responsibility fees have been called a “tax on the poorest people in the state.”
House Bill 5414, introduced by Representative Joe Haveman, aims to phase out the responsibility fees. Under the plan, the fees will be virtually eliminated by 2018. The bill has passed the House and Senate and is expected to be signed by Gov. Rick Snyder in the near future.
The question remains, however, what will replace the nearly $100 million in annual revenue generated from the responsibility fees?