Some speeding fines may be illegal

Oops. You weren’t watching your speed carefully enough, were you? Now a Prince William County policeman is waving you over to the curb. You will most certainly get a citation for traveling 39 MPH in a 35 MPH. zone. That means points on your driver’s license, a higher insurance rate and a fine of $59. Oh yes, you will also have to pay an “additional fine” of $200 because there are small signs to that effect just below the speed limit signs.

Or will you? Maybe not. It all depends on whether or not the additional fines were authorized in the first place. Over the years, Prince William County supervisors have pushed the additional fines with some gusto, occasionally stepping over the law.

The county supervisors will not admit that they play fast and loose with the state regulations that pertain to the additional fines; therefore, you need to do some investigative work on your own. First, you should get a copy of Section 46.2-87.2 of the Code of Virginia the law that authorizes the additional fines. You can download it from the state’s Web site. Next, you need to get a copy of the four-page “policies and procedures” document that was issued by the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) on June 20, 1996. This document can be requested through VDOT’s Web site. It is important because it sets forth the specific criteria that apply to the installation of the “additional fine” signs.

The CTB policies and procedures document states that local governing bodies may request that additional fines be authorized for roads that meet three criteria:

The posted speed limit must be 35 MPH. or less.

The road must not be part of the state’s “primary system.”

The road must be either a “local residential road” or a “collector road that exhibits residential characteristics.”

This third point requires elaboration. A local residential street is a highway built as part of a residential development. The street must have houses that face the street and either driveway connections or curbside parking. Thus, Dale Boulevard and Hillendale Drive in Dale City meet the criteria; however, Waterway Drive in Montclair and many other streets do not.

If the road you were traveling on meets all the criteria for additional fines, you’re sunk. Just pay the fine and avoid that particular speed trap in the future. However, if the road has been mismarked as requiring additional fines, go to court. Show the judge the statute and the CTB policy document. He or she will toss out the additional fine and perhaps void the citation entirely on the grounds it is just one more example of local government exceeding its authority.

Gary Jacobsen lives in Woodbridge.

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