Resolve Traffic Debt: Advocate Toolkit


90 percent of North Carolinians use a car to get to and from work; without a car, the typical resident loses access to 70 percent of jobs within 90 minutes. 

North Carolina automatically suspends a person’s driver’s license for failure to pay court fees or fines for a motor vehicle offense. Approximately 300,000 North Carolinians have long-term driver’s license suspensions for unpaid traffic costs and fines. Suspensions create barriers to employment, housing, family unification, and access to healthcare. The Second Chance Mobility Project is an effort of NC advocates to restore a large portion of these driver’s license suspensions using relief under North Carolina law. This toolkit identifies collateral consequences that can result from driver’s license suspensions, provides statewide data, talking points for advocates, relief models, and other policies local system actors can adopt that challenge or eliminate debt-based driver’s license suspensions.

You can read the full text here.

Key Findings:

  • Court costs for a motorist found guilty is $190 and up, plus a possible fine of $10 to $50.
  • 58 percent of the 300,000 North Carolinians with debt-based suspensions are people of color.
  • The average length of failure to pay based suspensions is eight and a half years.
  • Black drivers are four times more likely than white, non-Hispanic drivers in North Carolina to have a debt-based license suspension.


  • End the suspension of driver’s licenses due to a person’s inability to pay criminal justice debt.
  • District attorneys can utilize N.C. Gen. Stat. 15A-1363 to motion for and give judges the authority to reduce or eliminate criminal court fines and costs.
  • Require judges to conduct an ability to pay assessments before imposing traffic court costs and fines.
  • Local courts can establish payment plans based on the individual’s resources.
  • Establish a fund for individuals with criminal justice debt who are not eligible for district attorney-initiated traffic debt relief programs.
NC Justice Center & NC Pro Bono Resource Center