Debt-based license suspensions make everyday life impossible.
Currently, 35 states and D.C. still suspend, revoke or refuse to renew driver’s licenses for unpaid traffic, toll, misdemeanor and felony fines and fees. The result: millions of people are struggling to survive with debt-related license suspensions just because they could not afford a court fine or fee — or because they missed a court hearing.
What happens when your license is suspended for unpaid debt?
Here are the facts about debt-based license suspensions
Driver’s license suspensions cost people their livelihoods. 86% of Americans drive to work and many jobs require a driver’s license. Without a license, you can’t take your children to school, buy groceries, or get healthcare. Many people have no choice but to continue driving — meaning they risk more fines and fees, a criminal conviction, and incarceration.
Suspending licenses cuts economic growth. People who can’t work or who lose income due to a suspended license have less money to contribute to the economy and less money to pay off their initial fines and fees — leaving them saddled with court debt for years.
License suspensions undermine public safety. When law enforcement uses valuable time to cite, stop, fine and arrest people for driving on a suspended license due to unpaid fines and fees, they have less time to investigate and focus on crimes that endanger people’s lives.
National momentum to end debt-based license suspensions is accelerating.
Since 2017, 15 states and D.C. have passed reforms to curb debt-based license suspensions. Across the nation, more and more states are recognizing the lifelong harms caused by debt-based license suspensions — in particular on low-income communities and communities of color. In September 2019, to accelerate further reform, more than 100 ideologically diverse organizations launched Free to Drive — a coalition united by the belief that restrictions on driving privileges should be only reserved for dangerous driving — not to coerce debt payment or to punish people who miss a court appearance.
Which states have ended this cruel practice?
Explore the Free to Drive campaign’s interactive maps to see which states still suspend for failure to pay fines and fees and for failure to appear for a court hearing. You can also see which states have passed reforms and those with proposed legislation in 2021. View the Free to Drive interactive maps here.
Steering Committee & Coalition
The Free to Drive steering committee includes the American Civil Liberties Union, Civil Rights Corps, Fines and Fees Justice Center, JPMorgan Chase, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Right on Crime, Southern Poverty Law Center, Texas Appleseed, and the Virginia Legal Aid Justice Center. See the full list of coalition members here.