Pursuant to a Rule of Criminal Procedure, Alabama courts suspend the drivers’ licenses of people who owe fines and fees for traffic tickets without prior notice or any inquiry into their ability to pay. The license is suspended until the fine is paid in full, and the motorist pays a $100 reinstatement fee. Driving with a suspended license can result in imprisonment for up to six months and a $500 fine with court costs. Alabama has one of the highest rates of poverty of any state in the country, and the majority of the residents travel to work by car because of the poor quality of the transit system. In 2018, nearly 23,000 Alabamans had their licenses suspended.
This class action alleges that Alabama’s driver’s license suspension practices violate equal protection and due process because people are being punished without any determination of their ability to pay.
The case was dismissed, without prejudice, because Plaintiffs lacked standing. Plaintiffs’ licenses were suspended because they failed to pay their traffic tickets and because they failed to appear in court. However, Plaintiffs only challenged the suspensions for failing to pay traffic tickets. Thus, the law at issue was not the independent cause for Plaintiffs’ injury. Likewise, the redressability element of standing was lacking because the failure to appear law was an independent legal barrier to Plaintiffs obtaining their desired result: the reinstatement of their driver’s licenses.