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Personal Narrative: Michael (Florida)

Michael has been without a driver’s license since 2008. He was on a payment plan making payments on misdemeanor court fees he owed in Citrus County, Florida when an auto-draft of his checking account came one week early and Michael defaulted on his payment.

Ficken v. City of Dunedin et al

Plaintiff James Ficken had grass over ten inches for about eight weeks during the summer of 2018 while he was out of town settling his mother’s estate. Without warning, he was hit with daily fines totaling $29,000. As a result of his inability to pay the $29,000 in fines, the City placed two liens on his property. Mr. Ficken requested a rehearing or reconsideration of the fines, but his request was rejected without explanation. He now faces imminent foreclosure because he does not have the money to satisfy the liens.

Florida SB 734: Penalties and fees; driver’s license suspensions

The bill provides that driver’s licenses may not be suspended for failure to pay fines and fees unless the person has the ability to pay but refuses to do so. It also provides that courts must provide alternatives to immediate payment of fines and fees for people who are indigent, such as payment plans and community service.

Florida SB 1270: Penalties And Fees… prohibiting the suspension of a person’s driver license solely for failure to pay certain financial obligations…

This 2018 bill - which did not pass - marks the third consecutive year that Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) introduced legislation to end driver’s license suspension for nonpayment of fines and fees in Florida. This bill would also have required courts to provide reasonable payment alternatives for poor defendants, including payment plans and performing community service to pay fines.
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