Driver license suspensions for unpaid traffic tickets eliminated by NY Legislature
Here’s the press release for the Bill eliminating driver license suspensions for unpaid traffic tickets:
The vast majority of New York driver’s license suspensions are for traffic tickets that residents cannot afford to pay. Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers can’t legally drive simply because they are trapped in a cycle of traffic debt.
The new law would end license suspensions due to traffic debt, while making affordable payment plans available (at 2% of a person’s monthly income or $10/month, whichever is greater). The reform would also reinstate the licenses of people who currently have a suspended license due to traffic debt.
Between January 2016 and April 2018, New York issued nearly 1.7 million driver’s license suspensions for traffic debt. Because Black and Latinx people are disproportionately stopped, ticketed, charged and convicted, this cycle of poverty and punishment especially burdens their families and communities.
In the last three years, nine U.S. states (Texas, Montana, Idaho, California, Mississippi, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Oregon) have passed similar legislation to stop suspending driver’s licenses for unpaid fines and fees.
“Today’s vote brings New York closer to ending harmful driver’s license suspension policies that fuel mass criminalization, economic inequality, and racial injustice,” said Katie Adamides, New York State Director at the Fines and Fees Justice Center. “Families are increasingly struggling to make ends meet during COVID-19 — now is the time to stop this vicious cycle of poverty and punishment.”
“At this time of global pandemic, New Yorkers need driver’s licenses so they can safely travel to work and care for their families. Yet our current suspension laws prevent low-income people—especially people of color—from accessing this critical tool for economic mobility and survival,” said Claudia Wilner, Director of Litigation and Advocacy at the National Center for Law and Economic Justice. “We cheer the passage of the Driver’s License Suspension Reform Act, and we urge Governor Cuomo to sign the legislation as soon as possible.”
“We applaud Assembly Member Hunter and Senator Kennedy for their leadership in ensuring the passage of the Driver’s License Suspension Reform Act and taking a major step forward to end the cruel and counterproductive criminalization of poverty,” said Ranit Patel, Equal Justice Works Fellow at The Bronx Defenders. “Suspending driver’s licenses because of traffic debt needlessly brings thousands of people into the criminal legal system every year and exacerbates and perpetuates racial disparities in the system. In the midst of a devastating economic crisis, low-income New Yorkers should not have to choose between their health and livelihood on the one hand and a criminal charge, more fines and fees, and even jail time, on the other, all because they could not afford to pay their traffic fines. The Senate’s vote today brings us one step closer to relieving hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers of this impossible choice.”
This wonderful Bill is headed to Gov. Cuomo for his signature.
Check out this excellent article about the elimination of suspensions