Florida Lawmakers Introduce Legislation to Reform Driver’s License Suspension Practices
Tallahassee – Representative Chip LaMarca (R-Broward) and Senator Tom Wright (R-New Smyrna Beach) have filed legislation in the Florida House and Senate that could make Florida the 14th U.S. state to pass legislation limiting driver’s license suspensions due to unpaid court debt.
This legislation (HB 557 and SB 386) would:
- End driver’s license suspension when the underlying basis is overdue fines and fees payments owed in non-driving related criminal cases.
- Standardize the process for individuals who owe fines or fees to apply for and obtain an affordable payment plan.
The bills do not change suspensions based on dangerous driving or overdue child support.
“Far too many Floridians are without the ability to pay their owed fines and fees in full,” said Senator Wright. “Suspending licenses for non-driving related offenses limits the person’s ability to work and earn wages to pay for the fines and fees. I am proud to sponsor this important piece of legislation at such a crucial time for so many of our Florida citizens.”
Two million Floridians – 1 in 8 drivers – have a suspended license simply because they couldn’t afford to immediately pay a fine or fee in full. In the past four years, 13 U.S. states – including Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, and West Virginia – have passed similar legislation to curb debt-based driver’s license suspensions.
“When someone loses their driver’s license, it becomes nearly impossible to maintain employment and support their family,” said Rep. Chip LaMarca. “As we build back our economy, we need to look at all options for Floridians and I believe that we should stop suspending licenses due to court debt.”
A previous version of this legislation was endorsed last year by the editorial boards of the Orlando Sentinel, Tampa Bay Times, and Gainesville Sun, while garnering positive coverage in the Miami Herald, Tallahassee Democrat, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and numerous other outlets throughout Florida.
Americans for Prosperity, The Florida Retail Federation, Florida Truckers Association, Tampa Bay Rays, Institute for Justice, UBER, Lyft and other business groups across the state have also signed on in support.
The Fines and Fees Justice Center (FFJC) recently released interactive Story Maps and a major report, Driving on Empty: Florida’s Counterproductive and Costly Driver’s License Suspension Practices, documenting how this ineffective policy harms Florida’s families and businesses.
“Florida’s economy is being harmed by this counterproductive policy,” said Ashley Thomas, FFJC’s Florida Director. “This bill would make it possible for Floridians to get to work, take care of their families, and pay their debts. It is time to remove this senseless hurdle and let Floridians get back on their feet and get back to work.”