Personal Narrative: Maria

Maria was recently terminated from a job in her field of training, green construction, because her license was suspended for unpaid tickets, and she could not drive between job sites. With two kids and no job or savings, she is unable to pay the debt. Because the debt has been referred to a collections agency, she is also prevented from performing community service in lieu of payment. Her previous employer would hire her if her license was reinstated, but without a job or income to pay her debt, she has no way of getting her license back.

Personal Narrative: Andrew

Andrew, a 22-year-old single father, was working as a mechanic and making regular installment payments to the court on a couple of traffic tickets. A few months into the payments, his two-year-old son was diagnosed with leukemia.

Personal Narrative: Unknown (Missouri, Ferguson Report)

A woman received three citations during a single incident in 2013 in which she pulled to the side of the road to allow a police car to pass, was confronted by the officer for doing so, and was cited for obstructing traffic, failing to signal, and not wearing a seatbelt. The woman appeared in court to challenge those citations, was told a new trial date would be mailed to her, and instead received notice from the Missouri Department of Revenue several months later that her license was suspended.

Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department

After Michael Brown was shot by a member of the Ferguson Police Department, the Department of Justice’s investigation uncovered a pattern of racially discriminatory practices by the Ferguson Police Department which were primarily rooted in the city’s dependence on the criminal justice system to raise revenue. The publication of the Ferguson report is widely viewed as the start of the movement to reform fines and fees in the U.S.

Personal Narrative: McArthur Edwards

In 2013, Edwards was stopped by police and ticketed for driving with a broken light over his back license plate. State department of transportation records show that when he didn't pay the $64 fine, his driver's license was suspended for two years. He kept driving and got more tickets.

Best Practices Guide to Reducing Suspended Drivers

This guide by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators discusses how suspending driver’s licenses for non-safety related reasons is ineffective and counter-productive: it diminishes the deterrent effect and perceived legitimacy of license suspension, as well as the efficacy of law enforcement, prosecutors, courts, and motor vehicle agencies.

Personal Narrative: John Doe (DC)

Because Tzedek DC's client did not have private property to park his car on, he was forced to park in different spots around his neighborhood. As a result, he received several parking tickets., which doubled after he was unable to pay. He fell ill in 2012, and was unable to renew his license due to outstanding debt. He feels very strongly that the inability to renew his license has negatively affected his health, both directly and through the stress it has caused.