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California bill disallows license suspensions for unpaid fines

The governor of California signed a bill on June 27, 2017, ending the state's longtime practice of suspending driver's licenses for unpaid traffic citations. In doing so, he cited the fact that studies have shown that suspending the driving privileges of low income individuals only perpetuates an endless cycle of job loss and persistent poverty.

Proponents of the bill second the governor's sentiments. They first started championing the bill to throw out the law in January of 2017 on the grounds that there wasn't a clearly defined connection between the state's suspension of driver's licenses and them being able to ultimately collect fines. 

By March, representatives with the state's Department of Motor Vehicles estimated some 488,000 motorists in California were driving on suspended licenses for either not having paid their tickets or having missed court appearances to address them. The passing of the new bill does not grandfather in those past offenders. Instead, their licenses will remain suspended until they pay their fines in full.

For those who receive traffic citations in the future, however, they will be automatically covered by this new law.

Proponents of the law argue that, by discontinuing the policy of suspending California driver's licenses for traffic infractions, it will ensure that, at the very least, their ability to legally drive doesn't preclude them from getting their children to school and making it to work with ease.

While this bill does not completely take away the threat of suspended licenses in all cases, it does where it impacts the impoverished the most. Licenses can still be suspended in drunk driving cases, for failure to appear in court, and other traffic-related situations.

Now that this bill has passed, lawmakers intend to turn their attention to providing another avenue for the poor to not feel victimized. They are working on getting a bill passed that will allow low-income individuals to petition a judge to have their citation reduced or, at the very least, allow them to perform community service in lieu of the assessed fine.

If you have been accused of having violated traffic laws or have had your license suspended, then you may benefit from speaking with a Van Nuys misdemeanor defense attorney.

Source: LA Times, "California no longer will suspend driver's licenses for traffic fines," accessed July 24, 2017

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