This bill amends an Arizona statute which required judges to suspend a defendant’s driver’s license for nonpayment of fines and fees. The bill allows courts, at their discretion, to adjust fines and fees that result in license suspension based on an individual’s ability to pay.
To determine ability to pay, the court determines whether a fine or fee would be a hardship for the individual or that individual’s family, and whether the individual is employed, seeking employment, or attending school. The bill also addresses suspensions that result from failure to appear in court. Under existing law, failure to appear results in suspension or restriction of driver’s license until the fine or fee is paid. Now failure to appear in court causes license suspension or restriction until the individual appears in court. If the individual appears but does not pay, the suspension or restriction continues; but at that point, the court may also choose to adjust the fine or fee based on the individual’s ability to pay.
Additionally, the bill ensures that license suspension will not cause an individual’s car to be impounded and that license restrictions related to driving without insurance are only imposed after the department of transportation verifies that the individual does not, in fact, have auto insurance.
Finally, the bill changes the conditions for a restricted license. Before the passage of the bill, individuals with restricted licenses could only drive between legally approved locations, such as between an individual’s workplace and their home. The new bill provides for increased flexibility between permitted locations (e.g., an individual with a restricted license may follow this route: home, work, school, a doctor’s appointment, home). It also allows a person with a restricted license to transport of a dependent to t school, work, or a medical appointment.
Statutes that provide more judiciary discretion to waive or reduce sanctions for nonpayment are a good thing, but ability to pay determinations should be mandated before nonpayment sanctions (as well as initial imposition of fines), and driver’s licenses should never be suspended for nonpayment of fines and fees.