Press Release: Nevada Assemblywoman Cecelia González Introduces Legislation to End Debt-Based Driver’s License Suspensions

Carson City Assemblywoman Cecelia González introduced legislation today that could make Nevada the 14th U.S. state to pass legislation limiting debt-based driver’s license suspensions.

This legislation (AB151) would:

  • End driver’s license suspension when the underlying basis is unpaid minor traffic fines, fees, and assessments.
  • Automatically reinstate licenses that were suspended for court debt from traffic violations. 

The bills do not change suspensions based on dangerous driving or overdue child support.

In the past four years, 13 U.S. states – including Idaho, Oregon, California and Montana – have passed similar legislation to curb debt-based driver’s license suspensions.  Legislative efforts are underway in several more states, including neighboring Utah and Arizona, to pass such reforms in 2021.

“Suspension of a driver’s license because someone is unable to pay a minor traffic ticket can potentially cause other economic hardships for Nevadans who are barely making ends meet,” said Assemblywoman Cecelia González.  “I brought this bill forward because I want to make sure Nevadans who get a minor traffic ticket are still able to drive to work and pay their bills. I’m looking forward to working with all stakeholders on this bill.”

The vast majority of Nevada driver’s license suspensions are for traffic tickets that residents cannot afford to pay.  Between July 2017 and June 2019, over 38,000 Nevadans had their driver’s licenses suspended because they couldn’t afford to pay court fines and fees. Without a license, many Nevadans lose the ability to work, care for their children and access basic needs.

Debt-based license suspensions force an impossible choice: stop driving—and lose access to work and basic necessities—or keep driving, thus risking arrest and even more fines and fees.

When people are given the option of affordable payment plans, people are much more likely to pay their fines and fees. When California replaced license suspensions with income-based payment plans, collections significantly increased.

One study found that 42% of people lost their jobs after their driver’s license was suspended. Of those who found new work, 88% reported a decrease in pay. Another study from Phoenix, Arizona found that the median annual income loss following license suspension was $36,800 per person.

“Driving is a necessity for many people, especially during COVID,” said Leisa Moseley, Nevada State Director of the Fines and Fees Justice Center.  “Suspending someone’s license for the inability to pay traffic fines and fees limits their ability to get to work, doctor’s appointments, the grocery store, and take care of basic needs. Ending this harmful practice would go far toward helping Nevadans support their families.”