A. For purposes of this section:”Debt collection” means the collection of unpaid tolls and applicable administrative fees by (i) retention of a third-party debt collector or (ii) collection practices undertaken by employees of a toll facility operator that are materially similar to a third-party debt collector.”Operator of a toll facility other than the Department of Transportation” means any agency, political subdivision, authority, or other entity that operates a toll facility.”Owner” means the registered owner of a vehicle on record with the Department of Motor Vehicles or with the equivalent agency in another state. “Owner” does not include a vehicle rental or vehicle leasing company.
B. The toll facility operator may impose and collect an administrative fee in addition to the unpaid toll so as to recover the expenses of collecting the unpaid toll, which administrative fee shall be reasonably related to the actual cost of collecting the unpaid toll and not exceed $ 100 per violation. Such fee shall not be levied on a first unpaid toll unless the written promise to pay executed pursuant to subsection F remains unpaid after 30 days. The person who executed the written promise to pay pursuant to subsection F shall pay the unpaid toll and any administrative fee detailed in an invoice or bill issued by a toll facility operator. If paid within 60 days of notification, the administrative fee shall not exceed $ 25.
C. If the matter proceeds to court, the owner or operator of the vehicle shall be liable for a civil penalty as follows: for a first offense, $ 50; for a second offense within one year from the first offense, $ 100; for a third offense within two years from the second offense, $ 250; and for a fourth and any subsequent offense within three years from the second offense, $ 500 plus, in each case, the unpaid toll, all accrued administrative fees imposed by the toll facility operator and applicable court costs if the vehicle operator is found, as evidenced by information obtained from the toll facility operator, to have used such a toll facility without payment of the required toll.
D. Notwithstanding subsections B and C, for a first conviction of an operator or owner of a vehicle under this section, the total amount for the first conviction shall not exceed $ 2,200, including civil penalties and administrative fees regardless of the total number of offenses the operator or owner of a vehicle is convicted of on that date.
E. No summons may be issued by a toll facility operator for a violation of this section unless the toll facility operator can demonstrate that (i) there was an attempt to collect the unpaid tolls and applicable administrative fees through debt collection not less than 30 days prior to issuance of the summons and (ii) 120 days have elapsed since the unpaid toll or, in a summons for multiple violations, 120 days have elapsed since the most recent unpaid toll noticed on the summons.
F. A written promise to pay an unpaid toll within a specified period of time executed by the operator of a motor vehicle, accompanied by a certificate sworn to or affirmed by an authorized agent of the toll facility that the unpaid toll was not paid within such specified period, shall be prima facie evidence of the facts contained therein.
G. The operator of a toll facility shall send an invoice or bill to the owner of a motor vehicle using a toll facility without payment of the specified toll as part of an electronic or manual toll collection process pursuant to § 46.2-819.6, prior to seeking remedies under this section. Any action under this section shall be brought in the general district court of the county or city in which the toll facility is located and shall be commenced within two years of the commission of the offense. Such an action shall be considered a traffic infraction. The attorney for the Commonwealth may represent the interests of the toll facility operator. Any authorized agent or employee of a toll facility operator acting on behalf of a governmental entity shall be allowed the privileges accorded by § 16.1-88.03 in such cases.
H. Upon a finding by a court of competent jurisdiction that the operator of a motor vehicle identified in the summons issued pursuant to subsection J was in violation of this section, the court shall impose a civil penalty upon the operator of a motor vehicle in accordance with the amounts specified in subsection C, together with applicable court costs, the operator’s administrative fee, and the toll due. Penalties assessed as the result of action initiated by the Department of Transportation shall be remanded by the clerk of the court that adjudicated the action to the Department of Transportation’s Toll Facilities Revolving Account. Penalties assessed as the result of action initiated by an operator of a toll facility other than the Department of Transportation shall be remanded by the clerk of the court that adjudicated the action to the treasurer or director of finance of the county or city in which the violation occurred for payment to the toll facility operator.
I. The toll facility operator may offer to the owner an option to pay the unpaid toll and fees plus a reduced civil penalty of not more than $ 25 for a first or second offense or not more than $ 50 for a third, fourth, or subsequent offense, as specified on the summons, provided the owner actually pays to the toll facility operator the entire amount so calculated at least 14 days prior to the hearing date specified on the summons. If the owner accepts such offer and such amount is actually received by the toll facility operator at least 14 days prior to the hearing date specified on the summons, the toll facility operator shall move the court at least five business days prior to the date set for trial to dismiss the summons issued to the owner of the vehicle, and the court shall dismiss upon such motion.
J. A summons for a violation of this section may be executed as provided in § 19.2-76.2. A summons for a violation of this section may set forth multiple violations occurring within one jurisdiction. Notwithstanding the provisions of § 19.2-76, a summons for a violation of this section may be executed by mailing by first-class mail a copy thereof to the address of the operator of a motor vehicle as shown on the written promise to pay executed pursuant to subsection F or records of the Department of Motor Vehicles. Such summons shall be signed either originally or by electronic signature. If the summoned person fails to appear on the date of return set out in the summons mailed pursuant to this subsection, the summons shall be executed in the manner set out in § 19.2-76.3.
K. Upon a finding by a court that a person has three or more unpaid tolls and such person fails to pay the required penalties, fees, and unpaid tolls, the court shall notify the Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles, who shall refuse to issue or renew any vehicle registration certificate of any applicant or the license plate issued for any vehicle owned or co-owned by the offender or, when the vehicle is registered in a state with which the Commonwealth has entered into an agreement to enforce tolling violations pursuant to § 46.2-819.9, who shall provide to the entity authorized to issue vehicle registration certificates or license plates in the state in which the vehicle is registered sufficient evidence of the court’s finding to take action against the vehicle registration certificate or license plates in accordance with the terms of the agreement. Upon receipt of such notification from the court, the Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles shall notify the state where the vehicle is registered of such payment. The Commissioner shall collect a $ 40 administrative fee from the owner or operator of the vehicle to defray the cost of processing and removing an order to deny registration or registration renewal.
L. Imposition of a civil penalty pursuant to this section shall not be deemed a conviction as an operator and shall not be made part of the driving record of the person upon whom such civil penalty is imposed nor shall it be used for insurance purposes in the provision of motor vehicle insurance coverage. The provisions of § 46.2-395 shall not be applicable to any civil penalty, fee, unpaid toll, fine, or cost imposed or ordered paid under this section for a violation of this section.
M. No person shall be subject to both the provisions of this section and to prosecution under § 46.2-819 for actions arising out of the same transaction or occurrence.
2004, c. 924; 2006, c. 859; 2007, cc. 78, 200; 2011, c. 736; 2016, c. 753.