You Paid Your Speeding Ticket. Here's Where Your Money Went.

Apr 30, 2018

The laws that determine how speeding tickets are issued and  processed in Vermont are labyrinthine.

For example: On local roads with a speed limit of 50 mph, revenues are pooled and distributed to towns based on their tax revenues and law enforcement expenditures.

On local roads with any other speed limit, ticket payments go directly to the municipality where the ticket was issued. That's just the beginning.

Here's the easy part —

All tickets include fees and surcharges distributed to the following funds:

  • Vermont’s Court Technology Fund
  • Victims Compensation Special Fund
  • Domestic and Sexual Violence Special Fund
  • Crime Victims restitution Special Fund
  • General Fund

In most cases, a substantial portion of your ticket will go either to the state Transportation Fund or to the municipality where the ticket was issued.

Which Money Goes Where: A Flowchart
Credit Emily Corwin / Vermont Public Radio

Calculating The Fine, Part One: The Base Fine

To calculate your base fine, begin with the number of miles per hour you were driving over the speed limit. Multiply that number by the appropriate “waiver $”:

  • 1-10 mph over speed limit: multiply by 5
  • 11-20 mph over speed limit: multiply by 6
  • 21-30 mph over speed limit: multiply by 7
  • 31 mph or more over speed limit: multiply by 8

Violations issued for commercial vehicles and work zones will differ. The above calculation is based on the Judicial Bureau's waiver penalty documentation, but officers have discretion over how many miles over the speed limit to charge a motorist for driving.

From the base fine, a $12.50 administrative fee is deposited into Vermont’s Court Technology Fund. 

In most cases, if you were driving on a local road, or if the municipality has adopted a local speed ordinance on a state highway per 23 § VSA 1007, the rest of your base-fine is returned to the municipality.

If you were driving on a state highway in a town which has not written the the road into its local speed ordinance; or if you were driving on an interstate highway, the rest of your base-fine is deposited in the state’s Transportation Fund. This fund is used for road maintenance and infrastructure projects.

If you were driving on a road with a speed limit of 50 mph, your ticket should be issued under a different statute: 23 § VSA 1081. In this case, the rest of your base-fine is pooled and then distributed to municipalities based on each town's tax revenues and law enforcement expenditures.

This law may unintentionally reward towns which reduce speed limits below 50-mph with higher revenues from speeding ticket payments.

Calculating The Fine, Part Two: Surcharges

Additionally, all speeding tickets include two surcharges.

First, there’s a $47 surcharge which breaks down in the following manner:

  • $29.75 — Victims Compensation Special Fund
  • $10.00 — Domestic and Sexual Violence Special Fund
  • $7.25 -—Vermont's General Fund

Next, there’s 15 percent surcharge deposited to the Crime Victims Restitution Special Fund.

Finally, if your speeding violation constitutes a criminal offense, you are charged a $100 “Specialized Investigative Unit” surcharge which is deposited in the General Fund

See: Vermont Judicial Bureau "Distribution of Civil Violations" allocation methodology

What's Up With 23 § VSA 1007?

By default, most tickets issued on state roads result in a substantial payment to the state Transportation Fund, while most tickets issued on local roads result in a substantial payment to the town. This statute allows towns to adopt the existing speed limit set by the state on a state road by local speed ordinance. Once that local speed ordinance is in place, the traffic ticket revenue goes to the town rather than the state. 

This may have some unintended consequences.

The state relies on the Transportation Fund to pay for maintenance of state roads. Some local and law enforcement officials say they choose heavy enforcement of speed limits to address hazards from deteriorated road conditions.

Such towns, including Plymouth and Bridgewater, end up spending revenues from enforcement on additional enforcement. If they hadn’t adopted the speed ordinance, the enforcement revenue would go to the Transportation fund, which theoretically could be used to improve the road itself.

Explore the full investigation into the issuing of traffic tickets in Vermont here.

This report comes from VPR's investigative reporting desk. VPR is committed to investigative journalism as part of its mission of public service. Have a tip for the investigative reporting desk? Send an email to VPR reporter/editor Emily Corwin.