Virginia OKs bill targeting unlicensed drivers; others fail

| 3/28/2008

In an effort to make roadways in Virginia a little safer, state lawmakers spent a lot of time during the recently completed regular session eyeing stiffer penalties for people caught driving without a license.

With an eye on illegal immigrants, one bill that advanced from the statehouse to Gov. Tim Kaine’s desk would allow courts to suspend for up to 90 days the driving privileges of someone convicted of driving without a license.

Despite stated concerns that the bill could lead to profiling, the Senate and House overwhelmingly approved the measure – SB113.

Among other legislation focused on illegal immigrants that didn’t clear the chambers is a bill that sought to require that unlicensed drivers be arrested, fingerprinted and photographed. Virginia law now allows only for tickets to be issued.

Advocates said the enhanced penalties would guarantee that offenders are appropriately punished. Others said the bill would make it easier for law enforcement to detect illegal immigrants, who are not eligible for Virginia driver’s licenses.

The bill – HB91 – advanced from the House but was killed in a Senate committee.

First-time offenders would’ve faced six months in jail. Subsequent offenses would’ve resulted in up to one year behind bars.

Another failed bill sought to get tough with people who owe money to local governments. The measure – HB133 – prohibited the issuance or renewal of a driver’s license for anyone who owes fees or taxes to counties, cities or towns – including parking tickets.

The full House refused to advance the measure, effectively killing it for the year.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Virginia in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor