Driver’s license suspensions for unpaid fines and fees are both counterproductive and harmful to millions nationwide, particularly the poorest people in our communities.
Lance Hartzog's New York driver's license was suspended in 1993 and remained suspended for the duration of his incarceration. The court costs and other fines and fees accrued during this time. After his release from prison in Pennsylvania, he moved home with his wife and together, the two of them worked to pay off the fines. Hartzog was only working minimum wage when he first came home, making an already arduous process that much slower and even more tedious.
Fisher's involvement with law enforcement that led to a suspended license was the result of a DUI for smoking marijuana in 2014. Five years later, his license has still not been reinstated. This is largely due to the extreme financial cost associated with a DUI conviction. In addition to court fees, the DMV also charged Lance expensive and ever accruing fees arising from his DUI during his incarceration.
This bill would end driver’s license suspensions for failure to pay traffic tickets and failure to appear in traffic court. The bill would also automatically reinstate licenses suspended for failure to pay and failure to appear with no need for individuals to pay reinstatement fees or suspension termination fees.
The North Carolina Next Step Act provides that courts may no longer revoke driver’s licenses for unpaid fines and fees unless there is a court finding at sentencing that the person is able to pay and the person’s license should be revoked if the person fails to pay.
Montana House Bill 217 provides that a person’s driver’s license cannot be suspended for failure to pay a fine, fee, or restitution.
Timothy Livingston’s only license suspension stems from a ticket for having two broken car lights. Following the police stop, he never received anything in the mail with information regarding how to pay the ticket or the date and time of his court date. However, about nine months after he was stopped, Livingston was shocked and confused when he received a letter stating that a default judgment was entered against him, he owed the court approximately $850, and his license was suspended.
This budget amendment prohibits Virginia courts from suspending driver’s licenses for unpaid fines and fees between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020.
The bill provides that when a person fails to pay their fines and fees (whether for traffic, misdemeanor, or felony offenses), a clerk will provide written notice advising that failure to pay within the following 90 days will result in the court pursuing collection of the debt. Before this law was passed, courts suspended driver’s licenses for nonpayment.
Nevada AB 434 makes several changes regarding collection of fines, fees, and restitution. Previously, the law allowed courts to enter a civil judgment; garnish property or wages; suspend driver’s licenses; and incarcerate defendants for nonpayment.