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Personal Narrative: Daniel McDonald

McDonald had received several traffic tickets, including many for driving without a license, which he could not obtain due to financial holds. When McDonald went to court to take care of his tickets, the judge refused to give him community service even though McDonald lived below the poverty line. Instead, the judge put him on a payment plan for $50 a month.

Pay or Stay: The High Cost of Jailing Texans for Fines and Fees

This joint report by Texas Appleseed and the Texas Fair Defense Project evaluates how often fine-only offenses - offenses punishable only by a fine and no jail sentence – in fact subject Texans to jail time and suspensions of driver’s licenses or the inability to renew a license or register a vehicle because of their inability to pay.

Thomas v. Haslam

In misdemeanor and felony cases, Tennessee automatically revoked a person’s driver’s license if they failed to pay court fines and fees one year after they were imposed.

Personal Narrative: James Thomas

On a rainy night, James took shelter under a bridge and was arrested for criminal trespass. Mr. Thomas was found guilty and assessed court costs. He advised the clerk of his circumstances and never heard anything else about the outstanding debt until 2016, when he was denied a Tennessee’s driver’s license.

Hernandez et al. v. California DMV

Alameda County Court informed the California Department of Motor Vehicles when someone failed to pay their traffic debt. Failure to pay resulted in the suspension of the person’s driver’s license.

Personal Narrative: Jane Doe (Tennessee)

She was a single black woman, age 37, with three children, ages 14, 10, and 8. Her disabled grandmother also lived with her. She worked two jobs to take care of her family and brought home just under $1200 monthly. After paying rent of $715, she had very little left to meet everyone’s needs. She reported having been to Court 1A five times in the past two years, facing charges of driving on a suspended license.
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