Senate Bill 39, sponsored by Sen. Darius Brown and Rep. Krista Griffith, would prohibit a court from suspending a driver’s license for nonpayment of a fine, fee, cost, assessment, or restitution. It also would prohibit a court from imposing an additional fee on a defendant for payments that are made at designated periodic intervals or late, or when probation is ordered to supervise a defendant’s payment.
This is a part of the Criminal Justice Reform package because these types of suspensions create a two-tiered system of justice where rich and poor people with otherwise identical records receive different punishments solely because of their ability to pay. And that’s punitive public policy that can have long-term consequences for those who can’t afford to pay, while wasting taxpayer dollars.
Stripping low-income people of their driver’s license makes it more difficult for them to earn a living and pay off their fines and fees. Once their license is suspended, they can no longer lawfully drive to and from work, school, job interviews, medical appointments, the grocery store, or religious services. Many report that losing their license leads to losing their jobs.
Stripping someone of a driver’s license for unpaid fees and tickets wastes public resources, too. When police, motor vehicle administration, and the courts have to spend time enforcing and processing licenses suspensions, they’re working to collect debt, not advance public safety.
Nothing in this Act precludes the court from filing contempt charges against defendants who willfully fail to pay their fines imposed after their ability to pay hearing. Further, this Act permits a court, before imposing a fine, fee, cost, or assessment, to consider a defendant’s ability to pay the fine, fee, costs, or assessment, whether an adult or a juvenile, is able to pay the fine, fee, cost, or assessment. This Act also provides the courts with discretion to waive, modify, suspend, costs, assessments, fines, and fees even if otherwise deemed mandatory by the Code.
WHERE IS THE BILL? Senate Judicial Committee – 5/31/19
DEMOCRATIC SPONSORS – Brown, McBride, Townsend, Griffith, Longhurst, Dorsey Walker, Lynn, Hansen, Sokola, Sturgeon, Baumbach, Chukwuocha, Heffernan, Minor Brown
REPUBLICAN SPONSORS –
YES VOTES –
NO VOTES –