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Montana Groups in D.C. to Discuss State’s Successful Passage of License Suspension Reform

Sep 10, 2019 by AFP

Americans for Prosperity, ACLU of Montana speak on reforms at Free to Drive event

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Americans for Prosperity-Montana and the ACLU of Montana are in Washington, D.C. today to participate in the launch of Free to Drive, a national campaign to end debt-based driver’s license suspension. The campaign brings together legal, policy, advocacy, grassroots, and research organizations committed to ending the counter-productive tactic of suspending someone’s license, for non-driving related offenses, in order to coerce debt repayment.

The Montana groups will share how they partnered with lawmakers and local stakeholders to get this necessary reform passed in Big Sky Country.

“Suspending the driver’s licenses of individuals who are unable to immediately pay court fines and fees criminalizes poverty and harms minorities and low-income people. In addition to the burden the law imposed on those affected, there is no evidence that the policy is an effective way for states to collect outstanding debt,” said ACLU of Montana Advocacy and Policy Director SK Rossi. “Montana has emerged as a national leader in ending this harmful practice. The ACLU looks forward to working with Free to Drive to end this practice nationwide.”

 “We were proud to partner with the ACLU of Montana and lawmakers to pass license suspension reform. Now the thousands of Montanans who were trapped in a vicious cycle with law enforcement can get back on the road and reliably get to work and provide for their families,” said AFP-Montana State Director David Herbst. “We hope the success in Montana can serve as a blueprint for leaders in other states to get similar reforms passed across the country.”

House Bill 217 was filed by Rep. Casey Knudsen and passed, following widespread coverage, along narrow margins in the state Senate. The bill was signed into law by Governor Bullock in May.

Additional information:

AFP-Montana Comments on Bill To End Debt-Based Driver’s License Suspension

ACLU of Montana: Fact Sheet on Debt-Based Driver’s License Suspension Reform

KTVH: New law erases MT courts’ power to suspend licenses for non-payment of fines