Driver’s License Suspension in North Carolina: A Report Analyzing Data from 1986 – 2018

This research article highlights the prevalence of driver’s license suspensions in North Carolina due to unpaid fines and fees and failures to appear in court for traffic offenses. Based upon data spanning from 1986 to 2018, the authors identify the demographics of people and the localities associated with the highest incidence of debt-based and failure to appear suspensions in the state. Lastly, this publication discusses the effects driver’s license suspensions can have on people and related litigation and legislative efforts that address this issue.  

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Key findings

  • There are 1.2 million active driver’s license suspensions in North Carolina for nonpayment of traffic fines and court costs and for failure to appear in court for traffic offenses. 
  • Of those 1.2 million license suspensions, 263,000 are for failures to pay traffic fines and fees, 827,000 are for failure to appear in court, and the remaining 135,000 are for both nonpayment and failure to appear. 
  • About 15 percent of drivers in North Carolina drivers are represented by these suspensions. 
  • Of those who had a driving with a revoked license charge filed against them between 2013 and 2017, 54 percent were Black, 39 percent were White, and 7 percent were Latinx. Whereas the 16 and older population of North Carolina is 21 percent Black, 65 percent White, and 8 percent Latinx.
  • A driver may be assessed an additional fee of $200 if they fail to appear in court. 
  • An additional fine and up to 20 days in jail may be imposed for driving with a revoked license. 
William Crozier and Brandon L. Garrett
Duke University School of Law
Duke Law School Public Law & Legal Theory Series