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National Driver’s License Suspension Campaign: Free to Drive

The Fines and Fees Justice Center, along with its partners, is launching the Free to Drive national driver’s license suspension campaign. The campaign is bringing together the legal, policy, advocacy, business, grassroots, and research community dedicated to the principle that restrictions on driving privileges—including suspensions, revocations, or renewals of driver’s licenses or registration—should never be used to coerce debt payment or punish people who don’t appear in court.

Driver’s license suspensions for unpaid fines and fees are both counterproductive and harmful to millions nationwide, particularly the poorest people in our communities. Despite significant progress, forty-three states still restrict driving privileges to coerce debt repayment. As a result, at least seven million people nationwide have their driver’s licenses suspended, revoked, or restricted because they can’t afford to pay court debt. Statistics suggest millions of people have lost their jobs; and many more can’t go to the doctor, attend church, take care of their families, or get to work reliably. And, because 83% of Americans report driving a car multiple times a week, many continue driving. This often becomes a backdoor to the criminal system: If pulled over, these individuals face additional fines and fees and, in some instances, incarceration. Driver’s license suspensions trigger a cycle of punishment for poverty that many people spend decades trying to escape.

Free to Drive is launching on September 10, 2019 with an event that will be held in Washington, DC. To find out more about our campaign, our current coalition members or our launch event, or to join Free to Drive, contact our National Campaign Director Priya Sarathy Jones at psjones@finesandfeesjustice.org.

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