Virginia bills target unlicensed drivers

| 1/11/2008

In an effort to make roadways in Virginia a little safer, state lawmakers are eyeing stiffer penalties for people caught driving without a license.

Delegate David Albo, R-Springfield, and Delegate Thomas Rust, R-Herndon, have offered two pieces of legislation that would require that unlicensed drivers be arrested, fingerprinted and photographed. Virginia law now allows only for tickets to be issued.

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

First-time offenders would face six months in jail. Subsequent offenses would result in up to one year behind bars.

The bill authored by Rust also would call for the violators’ vehicle to be impounded for 30 days.

Both bills – HB91 and HB104 – are awaiting assignment to committee for the regular session that started Wednesday, Jan. 9.

Another bill focusing on unlicensed drivers would mandate the forfeiture of the violator’s vehicle for two or more offenses within three years of driving without a valid operator’s license. If a person is found in violation while driving a vehicle he or she doesn’t own, the vehicle would be impounded for 30 days.

Fines for impoundment would be equivalent to the fair market value of the vehicle.

Sponsored by Delegate Robert Marshall, R-Prince William, the bill – HB63 – is in the subcommittee for the House Criminal Justice Committee.

One more bill – HB133 – would get tough with people who owe money to local governments. Sponsored by Delegate Onzlee Ware, D-Roanoke, it would prohibit the issuance or renewal of a driver’s license for anyone who owes fees or taxes to counties, cities or towns. Parking tickets would be included.

The measure is in the House Transportation Committee.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor