Low-income Virginia motorists may soon be able to keep driving, even if they they cannot afford to pay an outstanding traffic ticket. Under legislation adopted by the state Senate in a 36 to 4 vote, a single missed payment would no longer result in a mandatory license suspension. Currently, 626,537 Virginians have no license because they were unable to make the immediate, up-front payment of a traffic fine that is required by statute.
Under the proposal presented to the state House Committee for Courts of Justice last week, licenses would no longer be suspended for non-payment. In addition, those who already had their license taken away on purely financial grounds could pay a $145 fee to have it restored, regardless of whether any other fines are overdue. The measure would become law if adopted by the full House and signed by embattled Governor Ralph Northam (D).
License suspensions have been a moneymaker for the commonwealth, bringing in $10,727,275 in revenue last year, but the practice has stirred controversy. States like California, Georgia, Kentucky and Wyoming have prohibited such suspensions, while courts in Tennessee and Michigan have joined the US Department of Justice in questioning the constitutionality of financial suspensions. States like New Jersey are also considering reform.