On February 25, 2019, Russell, a current upstate New York resident, was scheduled to start nursing school. He lives on a $750 fixed income and pays $650 for rent, leaving him with a very limited budget to cover the cost of other necessities such as utilities and food. Russell was just hired for a new job a couple of weeks prior so he was looking forward to bringing in more income and bettering himself overall.
During the early morning hours of January 2, 2019, Russell was pulled over because of an issue with his headlight and the officer informed him that his license was suspended. Russell had no idea that his license was suspended and later found out that it was because he had unpaid tickets from 5 to 6 years ago. He had purchased the car he was driving about 3 weeks before with the sole purpose of having reliable transportation to get him to work and school. Russell informed his new manager that he would have to miss work so that he could attend his court date, but she was not willing to accommodate him. She gave him the ultimatum that many other hourly wage-earners face when their court dates conflict with their work schedule and they don’t have vacation time: miss court and risk getting an arrest warrant or attend court and get fired. Hayes knew he could not miss his court date so he resolved to go to court and lost the job that he had just started. When he arrived at the courthouse on February 4th, court personnel informed Russell that his hearing had been changed to February 11th. Russell had not received a call, email, or mail notification informing him of this change so he missed a day of work and consequently lost his job for nothing.
During Russell’s February 11th court date, he communicated to the judge that he couldn’t afford to pay what he owed for the tickets from years ago considering his limited means. The judge disregarded this, instructed him to bring a driving abstract from the DMV, and to bring the money for his tickets in full to his next court date on March 7th. Russell was nervous about going to his next court date because he simply did not have the money to pay for his old tickets. He was also worried about becoming homeless because he couldn’t pay his rent for March. Since finding out his license was suspended, Russell stopped driving and became dependent on a friend from church, who lives about 10 miles away, to take him to school so he doesn’t have to sacrifice his education too.