TODAY: New Nevada Driver’s License Law Takes Effect
Tens of Thousands of Nevadans Could Regain Freedom to Drive
Today, October 1, Nevada’s SB219 takes full effect, ending the state’s widespread practice of suspending an individual’s driver’s license when they cannot afford to pay fines and fees from a minor traffic ticket.
This reform could allow tens of thousands of Nevadans to regain their driver’s licenses — and with it their access to work and other necessities.
Signed by Governor Sisolak in June, this new law will help safe drivers regain the freedom to drive by automatically reinstating licenses that were suspended for court debt — without charging a reinstatement fee. Provided that it has a current address, the Nevada DMV will send a postcard to eligible drivers, informing them that their license has been reinstated.
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.
SB219 was sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Nicole Canizzaro and co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Ceclia Gonzalez, who sponsored a similar bill in the Assembly. “This is a win for all Nevadans — especially those who have been caught in a cycle of poverty from traffic debt,” said Assemblymember Gonzalez. “I am honored to have co-sponsored such an important piece of legislation that impacts the lives of our constituents.”
Without a license, many Nevadans lose the ability to work, care for their children and access basic needs. 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.
Driving is such a necessity that 75% of people continue to drive after their license gets suspended. If they get pulled over, they can be arrested and jailed for driving on a suspended license, which is one of the most common criminal charges in Nevada. After arrest, people are saddled with more fines and fees, and are often incarcerated long enough to miss their rent payment or lose their job.
“After a decade of advocacy, we were pleased to work with the bill authors, legislative leadership, and partner with the Fines Fees Justice Center in support of SB219 this legislative session,” said Yvette Williams, chair of the Clark County Black Caucus. “We celebrate the end of debt-based driver’s license suspensions, which prevent Nevadans from taking care of their families. Nevada roads will be safer thanks to the leadership and bipartisan support of the Nevada Legislature and Governor Sisolak.”
Ending debt-based license suspensions enjoys broad bipartisan support. In just the last five years, 21 other U.S. states — including red states like Mississippi, Idaho, Montana, Utah, West Virginia, Texas, and Arkansas — have passed similar reforms to curb debt-based driver’s license suspensions.
In Congress, bipartisan federal legislation that passed the House Judiciary Committee earlier this year would incentivize U.S. states to end debt-based driver’s license suspensions by providing them with extra federal funding. If the federal Driving for Opportunity Act is passed into law, Nevada will be eligible for those funds.
“Without the ability to legally drive, it’s impossible for many Nevadans to get to work and access basic necessities. This new law is a win-win for struggling families and the entire Nevada economy,” said Leisa Moseley, Nevada State Director at the Fines and Fees Justice Center.
“This is an important step toward ending our state’s two-tiered system of justice where poor people – and particularly communities of color – are disproportionately punished. This practice has targeted the most vulnerable among us and this new law will go a long way toward ending the criminalization of poverty,” added Moseley.