Law would end driver’s license suspensions over unpaid fines

The Associated Press

BREMERTON — State lawmakers have proposed a measure that would prevent a driver’s license from being suspended if a person cannot pay or respond to a traffic ticket.

The measure sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Emily Randall would eliminate suspended licenses for those who are unable to pay off their traffic infractions, the Kitsap Sun reported Monday.

Currently, drivers who receive a traffic infraction can either pay the ticket or appear in court to contest it.

If the driver doesn’t pay or doesn’t contest the infraction in court, the state Department of Licensing can suspend the driver’s license and send the debt to a collections agency.

Those who continue to drive on their suspended license can be charged with a misdemeanor that can result in fines of up to $1,000 and 90 days in jail.

Twelve other states in the U.S. have enacted similar laws eliminating debt-based license suspension, including Oregon and California.

Suspended licenses account for about 33 percent of the prosecutorial caseload in Washington state, according to the state Legislature.

Opposing viewpoints

Proponents of the bill have said the existing law disproportionately affects the poor and people of color.

Nat Jacob, a public defender in the state, said the system forces low-income people into a cycle of poverty in which they fall further behind on paying off their debts.

“The current law doesn’t just disproportionately affect the poor, it exclusively affects the poor because it criminalizes conduct that has nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with a person’s ability to pay,” Jacob said at a public hearing on the bill earlier this month.

Those opposed to the bill have said it prevents accountability and strips the incentives needed to make people pay for their traffic tickets, which would result in a decrease in revenue for the state.

“This bill removes all incentive for people to pay their fines, eliminating all personal accountability for violating traffic safety laws,” Kelsi Hamilton, with the Washington Collectors Association, said at the hearing. “Many violators only pay their fines if there’s a consequence related to nonpayment.”

More in News

Peninsula COVID-19 cases, infection rates reported

Sunday’s toll: 12 more in Clallam, none in Jefferson

Author Roshani Chokshi will speak on Wednesday.
NOLS hosting author talk online Wednesday

The North Olympic Library System will host a conversation… Continue reading

Drive-by chicken fundraiser

Orders must be received by Saturday, March 6 for the… Continue reading

No weekly flight operations scheduled

There will be no field carrier landing practice operations for… Continue reading

Book discussion groups available online

The North Olympic Library System will continue online book… Continue reading

Flags across the country were at half mast the past few days as the United States passed the dubious mark of half a million Americans having died of COVID-19. The flags at the Clallam County Courthouse were no exception as they fluttered in strong winds Tuesday at half staff. dlogan
Flags mark solemn remembrance

Flags across the country were at half staff part of this week… Continue reading

Sequim seeks input on redesign of downtown corner

Artists, surveys to help with public engagement

Sequim man dies after house fire

A Sequim man badly burned in a house fire Tuesday… Continue reading

Most Read