County Clerks in Tennessee automatically suspend the driver’s license of persons who fail to pay their traffic debt within a 30-90 day window.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a landmark report detailing the disproportionate harms that communities of color suffer from fines and fees.
Demetrice Moore is a certified nursing assistant and mother of two children. In 2002, she was convicted of grand larceny, and sentenced to jail and to pay court costs, including the cost of the lawyer appointed to represent her because she was indigent. She served her jail time, but was unable to pay the court costs she owed, which resulted in the automatic suspension of her Virginia driver’s license.
Plaintiffs allege that defendant’s practice of suspending drivers’ licenses indefinitely until all court fines and fees are paid regardless of ability to pay violates equal protection and due process.
"The court fines for Virginia were $611 as well as a $150 driver's license reinstatement fee to the Virginia DMV. Once my case was transferred to Illinois, where I live, I was charged by my home county another $600 for probation services fees. In total, court fees cost me $1361."
This report analyzes the first nine months of the Phoenix Municipal Court’s driver’s license reinstatement pilot - the Compliance Assistance Program (CAP) - and calculates the economic impacts of both the suspension and reinstatement of driver’s licenses on individuals and the Phoenix community, including wages and GDP.
California’s 2017 omnibus budget bill included a provision that ends the practice of suspending driver’s licenses for failure to pay fines and fees.
Amy Marie Palacios is a single mother with two children, who earned $20,090 in 2016 - below the federal poverty line for her three-person household. Her driver’s license was suspended in 2015 because she failed to pay the fine for a speeding ticket.
Ms. Corder drove to work with a suspended license because her job was her only source of income. She was stopped by law enforcement, received three new citations, and her car was impounded. As a result, she owed $1320 in fines and fees.
Fowler’s license was suspended because she was unable to pay three traffic tickets, but she was never notified of the suspension. In the winter of 2013, her daughter developed a fever and she drove through an ice storm to take her to the hospital fearing the emergency vehicle services would take too long to come. On her way to the hospital, a police officer pulled her over. He allowed her to continue to the hospital but still issued a speeding ticket, which cost almost $600.00. She currently owes $2121 – an amount she simply could not afford.