More than 40 states across the United States have laws on their books that allow the state to suspend a person’s driver’s license for failing to pay outstanding fines or fees. Minnesota is one of those states, and many people feel that the law unfairly punishes low-income individuals who may be forced to decide between buying groceries for the week or paying an outstanding fine. What started as a simple ticket with a small fine can snowball into large fees and the loss of driving privileges simply because people can’t afford to pay their fine. It’s a broken system, and one that Minnesota is considering fixing.
Legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate that would end the practice of suspending driver’s licenses for individuals with outstanding tickets and fees. Should the measure become law, more than 50,000 Minnesotans would have their driver’s licenses restored.
Stopping Suspensions For Unpaid Fines
Many view the current law as problematic for a number of different reasons. Aside from the fact that some low income families are overly punished for small citations because they can’t afford to pay, eventually losing their driver’s license because of it can cause even more problems and stress. It can restrict their ability to earn a living and work towards paying off the fine. A number of individuals who lost their driver’s license because they couldn’t pay a fine said it ultimately led to the loss of their job, further crippling their financial situation.
Suspending someone’s license is also a burden on public resources and tax dollars. Police, motor vehicle departments and the courts spend countless hours enforcing and processing license suspensions related to unpaid fines, and this eats into the public budget and takes them away from more important public safety matters. For example, Colorado said it paid the equivalent of four full-time workers to process their license suspensions for unpaid fines, and Arkansas reported spending $20,000 on postage alone to process their license suspension paperwork. Clearly resources could be better allocated.
At the end of the day, the penalty for a traffic violation should fit the crime. An unpaid parking ticket should not warrant a driver’s license suspension and the potential loss of a person’s job because they can no longer get to their place of employment. Hopefully lawmakers can see the burden license suspensions for unpaid tickets can have on the low income population and pass new regulations to prevent small problems from snowballing out of control.
If you have an unpaid ticket or a warrant for your arrest, be sure to talk to a criminal defense lawyer like Avery Appelman so we can prevent the issue from getting any worse and help you fight your case in court. For more information, or for a free case strategy session, click here or call us at (952) 224-2277.