The Leesburg Police Department wants people convicted of certain traffic offenses to help pay the costs of catching them.
Police Chief Joseph R. Price said he would present a plan to the Town Council on June 13 to require individuals convicted of reckless driving, driving under the influence, driving with a suspended or revoked license, or leaving the scene of an accident to pay $250 to the police. The fee would be separate from and on top of any court-imposed fines and jail time.
Price said the fee would help defray the costs associated with enforcing those laws, such as police time conducting breathalyzer tests, investigating accidents and testifying in court. Most criminal sanctions are collected by the state, with only a portion going to the jurisdiction where the offense occurred, Price said.
"The purpose is not for the jurisdiction to make money," he said. "It's to put the cost of enforcement of these type of violations on the offenders instead of on you and I."
Virginia law allows local jurisdictions to collect as much as $1,000 from individuals convicted of certain traffic offenses by documenting their expenses. They can also charge a flat rate, which Price said would be more cost-effective. Although the law has allowed local jurisdictions to impose such charges for several years, Leesburg had no reliable system for keeping track of traffic violations until recently, when it upgraded its computer system.
Price said that if a Virginia resident did not pay the extra fee, Leesburg would be able to alert the Department of Motor Vehicles to place a "flag" on that individual's vehicle registration, preventing the driver, for example, from renewing vehicle tags. "Even if you live in Virginia Beach, you're going to have to get your tags renewed," he said.
Leesburg Mayor Kristen C. Umstattd said she expected the proposal to be approved unanimously. Budget officials included $100,000 in revenue from the plan in the 2006 budget. Price said annual revenue could double that.
Leesburg's "council is always looking for sources of revenue that don't involve an additional tax on our residents," Umstattd said.
She said she would be pleased if the town collected less than expected because the penalty deterred drunken driving or other violations.
"You try to encourage people to stop breaking the law by hitting them with an additional levy," Umstattd said.
Several surrounding jurisdictions have similar ordinances. Loudoun County has collected more than $60,000 since its policy took effect in February 2004, said Kraig Troxell, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Office.
Deputy Treasurer Carlos Solorzano said that since July, the county has charged a flat fee of $250 per offense. The Town of Herndon has also passed a measure to recoup fees but has not begun doing so, according to Jerry Keys, a spokesman for the Herndon Police Department.
The Town Council is expected to vote on the proposal later this month. If passed, the fees would take effect July 1.