$23,000 in traffic fines reduced to $9 for man as pilot program takes on New Orleans’ court system

In March 2017, New Orleans nonprofit Stand with Dignity sponsored a warrant clinic in New Orleans. Over 1,200 people (who owed an average of $8,000 in fines and fees) participated in the clinic. Some saw debt reductions in exchange for community service, while others had warrants cleared for misdemeanor offenses.”  The focal point of the article is the story of Izell Mayes, whose $23,000 in fines and fees were reduced to $9, demonstrating the impact of the clinic.

According to Anza Becnel, an organizer with Stand with Dignity, the purpose of the clinic was “to eliminate obstacles that can prevent people from getting jobs and obtaining vehicle insurance, while removing the threat of jail from their lives.” In the article, Becnel also expressed the hope that New Orleans would enact a more permanent fix for the problem, such as an ordinance that eliminates warrants for minor offenses and gives police the option to issue tickets instead of arrests for individuals who drive with suspended licenses.

You can read the full text of the article here.

“A majority of people we talked to have not had a driver’s license since Katrina because they couldn’t afford the $10,000 they owed in traffic fees.” –Virginia Ryan, Orleans Public Defender

  • A Louisiana judge said that in New Orleans, a person’s driver’s license is automatically suspended for failure to appear, “which happens about 20% of the time.”
  • The fine for driving without a driver’s license in New Orleans is $500.
  • “Driving with a suspended license remains one of only four driving-related offenses for which a person can be arrested in Orleans Parish. The other three – driving while intoxicated, reckless operation of a vehicle, and hit-and-run – put people at physical risk, which is not necessarily the case with someone not having a valid license.”
Richard A. Webster (article), Orleans Parish municipal and traffic court