In the United States, the majority of people learn to drive as teenagers. Urban planning which prioritizes automobiles combined with a lack of high-quality public transportation means that driving is a necessary part of most Americans' days. Unfortunately, for many, license suspension can keep people from getting to work, making it to class, or picking up their children from school.
On October 25, civil rights advocates filed a lawsuit in the Alameda Superior Court that attacks the suspension of 600,000 California drivers' licenses for “drivers who couldn't afford to pay their increasingly expensive parking tickets.” The case specifically argues that the DMV can only suspend licenses when the offender “willfully” chooses not to pay a ticket, not when they are financially incapable of doing so.
As it now stands, California courts notify the DMV when an individual has failed to pay or appear in court at least two times. Over 4.8 million California licenses have been revoked or suspended due to this practice, often because a driver is unable to pay ticket fees.
Denying people access to transportation might actually make them less capable of paying the fines they incurred in the first place. California Governor Jerry Brown has called this cycle of ticketing and license suspension a “hellhole of desperation,” while the director of litigation and advocacy at Bay Area Legal Aid, Rebekah Evenson, said that drivers' licenses are a “fundamental right” and the “key to economic survival for most people.”
One of the plaintiffs in the case, Guillermo Hernandez, experienced firsthand the difficulties of high fees and license suspension. In March of 2013, this Costa County resident received a traffic citation because he “lacked a valid registration and hadn't updated the address on his license.”
According to NBC Bay Area, Hernandez went to court twice in order to take care of the ticket, but was repeatedly told that he was “not in the system.” His license was suspended, and he was charged over $900 in fees which he was unable to pay.
Another plaintiff, Henry Washington, had his license suspended in 2010 when he failed to pay a fine on an unregistered vehicle that he had “purchased to take his brother to medical appointments.” This lawsuit represents efforts to make the ticketing and license suspension process more fair for people who cannot pay fees upfront.
At the Gorelick Law Offices, attorney Lynn Gorelick has dedicated her legal career to defending people experiencing license suspension for a variety of reasons, from traffic violations to DUI charges. With more than 30 years of experience, Lynn Gorelick understands how important it is to keep your license. If you are facing license suspension, contact a local East Bay criminal defense attorney who understands the law and will fight to keep you on the road.