This case challenges the state of Oregon’s policy of suspending the driver’s licenses of people who cannot afford to pay fines and fees for traffic violations.
Bermudez owed $2,812.38 in court debt and her driver’s license was suspended. She could not afford to keep up with the court’s payment plan because she already struggled to buy necessities for herself and her children. She continued to drive with a suspended driver’s license to take her children to the school, to get to work, to buy groceries and other basic things. There was no reasonable alternative for her.
Mendoza owed $11,282.77 to three courts. It was impossible for her to pay that amount to have her license reinstated. It was difficult for her to find work near her home so she was forced to drive on a suspended license.
Teon Smith, a mother of six, lived in Montgomery, Alabama. In 2018, she was pulled over because one of her tail lights was out. When the officer came back after running her driver’s license through the database, the officer told her that her license had been suspended for about three months by that time because of unpaid tickets.
In Tennessee, Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk announced that he will stop prosecuting driver's license violations that result from failure to pay fines and fees, such as driving on a suspended license. His office predicts that this policy change could keep 12,000 charges out of Nashville courtrooms over the next year.
Washington, D.C. has the opportunity to lead the nation in fines and fees reform: for Washington Post’s Opinion section, FFJC Co-Director Joanna Weiss and Tzedek DC’s Ariel Levinson-Waldman support legislation …
Fuller received a ticket for an expired inspection sticker. Because he entered an inpatient rehabilitation program, he missed the hearing for his ticket. When he later appeared in court, the judge informed him that he was charged with failure to appear and that he needed to pay the full amount of the fines and fees he owed. No inquiry was made as to his ability to pay.
Sharon McGee was 16 years old when she was stopped by a police officer and ticketed for not completely stopping at a stop sign. At the time, McGee was working a minimum wage job and living on her own.
The American Bar Association developed ten guidelines to ensure that fines and fees do not punish people disproportionately for their poverty.
This report is a result of a comprehensive review of New Jersey municipal courts by the Supreme Court Committee on Municipal Court Operations, Fines, and Fees.