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AFP: Driver’s License Suspension Reform Will Improve the Lives of Hundreds of Thousands of Virginians

Mar 26, 2019 by AFP

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Joined by a bipartisan coalition and members of the House of Delegates, Governor Ralph Northam announced today that widely supported driver’s license suspension reform will be enacted. The reforms, which will end the practice of suspending the driver’s licenses of Virginians who have unpaid court fines and fees, will be implemented through the budget amendment process in the coming days.

While reasonable court fees should eventually be paid, revoking a person’s ability to drive directly harms their capacity to earn the money they need pay these fines in the first place. The announced reforms repeal Virginia’s requirement that anyone, no matter how poor, who is convicted for any offense, no matter how minor, must lose their driver’s license if they fail to pay associated fines and fees within thirty days.

“This is a great day for the nearly 1 million Virginians facing the often insurmountable barrier a suspended license creates against maintaining employment and providing for their families. This new policy ends the previous fee-based driver’s license suspension policy that trapped too many in a vicious cycle of indebtedness and incarceration,” said Jacob Fish, Coalitions Director for AFP-Virginia. “AFP was pleased to join Senator Stanley and a bipartisan coalition in support of this legislation that is going to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of Virginians.”

Background:

  • Americans for Prosperity, Senator Bill Stanley, Legal Aid Justice Center, Virginia Poverty Law Center, and Prison Fellowship backed the legislation during legislative session.
  • The new policy removes the provision that allows the court to require defendants to present summaries of other outstanding fines they owe, an overly burdensome obligation.
  • The new policy requires Virginia to return or reinstate any person’s driver’s license suspended prior to July 2019 solely for nonpayment of fines and fees, pending a nominal reinstatement charge—this could impact the nearly 650,000 Virginians whose licenses were suspended for non-payment of fines and fees alone.