Hernandez et al. v. California DMV

Alameda County Court informed the California Department of Motor Vehicles when someone failed to pay their traffic debt. Failure to pay resulted in the suspension of the person’s driver’s license. The court rarely informed traffic defendants of their right to an ability to pay hearing. The plaintiffs filed the complaint stating their equal protection and due process rights were violated because their licenses were suspended without any inquiry as to whether their nonpayment was willful.

Mr. Hernandez lives with his wife and two children. He has not had a stable job since 2013 when his small business was forced to close its doors. His license was suspended for failing to pay a traffic ticket. The ticket was for failing to update the address on his driver’s license and not having valid registration. He attempted twice to resolve the ticket but court staff had told him it was not in the system. The base fine was approximately $500—additional fees and civil assessments for failing to appear and pay the ticket made the total become $900. He was only able to pay $200. Later, he could not renew his license because of the suspension and failure to pay. He was never informed of his option to have an ability to pay hearing.


Unknown. Case was likely dismissed due to the passing of Bill 103 (AB 103) where Alameda County Superior Court recalled 83,000 driver license suspensions for failure to pay traffic fines. In California a $100 ticket would actually be $490 because of additional fees imposed.

You can read the full text of relevant documents via the ACLU of Northern California and the Alameda County Courts website.

42 USC § 1983 (alleging due process and equal protection violations)
RG16836460 (Super. Ct. Ca., Alameda Co. 2016)
October 2016
Bay Area Legal Aid, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), USC Gould School of Law, Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights, Western Center on Law& Poverty, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, and East Bay Community Law Center