(07/24/2007)
West Virginia legislators appear eager to nix a state law that makes drivers pay court costs for every traffic violation incurred on a single ticket.

Steve Canterbury, administrative director of West Virginia courts and former head of the state's jail system, helped issue a directive to magistrates to "follow the law" and charge for each violation on a ticket.

Most state magistrates have resisted, saying the increased costs would be an undue hardship on the state's working poor.

It was unclear how much additional money enforcing the practice would generate for the cash starved jail system, but some estimated several million dollars.

The Supreme Court issued a memo advising the state's magistrates to collect $160.50 for each guilty plea or conviction. Before then, magistrates had only charged traffic offenders $160.50 per ticket instead of charging separate fees for each violation.

Sen. Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall and Delegate Carrie Webster, D-Kanawha said "I've heard numerous complaints from several magistrates...People are looking at $321 for going 5 miles over the speed limit and having a defective taillight. Very few people can afford that, so the magistrates feel horrible about imposing it."

The Supreme Court cited a 1976 state law and a 1999 ruling upheld by the high court for enforcing the policy.

Most of the revenue goes to regional jails, directly or indirectly.

Kessler said "I agree that bad guys should pay, but we're talking about simple, traffic violations."

The Charleston Daily Mail reported unpaid tickets account for 63 percent of all license suspensions. In 2006, the state DMV suspended 62,000 licenses because of unpaid tickets.

Insurance violations accounted for 10,000 suspensions. About 9,000 licenses were suspended due to motorists driving under the influence.


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