Cindy Mendoza was a 28-year-old mother of three young children. She lived in a two-bedroom subsidized apartment. She was unemployed so she received approximately $1100 monthly in public assistance, including food stamps, and she had no other source of income. In 2010, she owed $812 in court costs and fees. It took her 5 years to pay off the debt. However, during this time she incurred more debt from driving with a suspended driver’s license, failure to appear, and other traffic violations. She owed $11,282.77 to three courts. It was impossible for her to pay that amount to have her license reinstated. It was difficult for her to find work near her home so she was forced to drive on a suspended license. Mendoza was even unable to get a job as flagger for construction jobs because a valid driver’s license was required. Mendoza needed to be able to drive so she could take her children to medical appointments, to buy clothes and food for her family. Mendoza would have paid off her debt if she was able to or she would’ve made periodic payments to reduce the amount of debt she owed.
Source: Mendoza v. Garrett