New York: A changing tide on driver’s license suspensions

New York’s practice of suspending licenses for unpaid fines has particular relevance in Buffalo.

The city in 2015 obtained permission to keep most of the revenue generated from traffic tickets. Police began issuing many more tickets, which in turn increased City Hall’s revenue. To raise more money, the Common Council last year approved 13 new fees that, once fully implemented, will add $100 to almost all tickets.

A lot of traffic enforcement has been concentrated in low-income black and Latino neighborhoods, where residents described having difficulty paying tickets. Indeed, Buffalo has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation among mid-sized cities.

In New York, a recently-formed coalition of several organizations, including the Fines and Fees Justice Centerthe Bronx Defenders and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice has began advocating for the end of suspensions over unpaid traffic fines.