There are valid reasons to revoke a person’s right to a driver’s license. Being charged with driving while intoxicated is one possible scenario where this punishment may be appropriate. But I think all of us can agree that not being able to quickly pay a debt is not proper grounds for revoking a license.
Yet, the government continues to use it as such.
According to the Fines and Fees Justice Center, there are at least 11 million driver’s license suspensions for unpaid debt nationwide. While six states have eliminated these types of suspensions, 44 states and the District of Columbia still revoke licenses for unpaid traffic, toll, misdemeanor, and felony fines and fees.
NEW: The #FreetoDrive coalition released a series of interactive maps showing which states suspend driver's licenses for unpaid fines and fees.— Fines and Fees Justice Center (@FinesandFeesJC) September 10, 2019
Despite recent reforms, 44 states still suspend driver’s licenses for failure to pay.
Explore the maps: https://t.co/dLxbt5IBhH pic.twitter.com/VEUDKp02gx
Losing a driver’s license can make a person’s life infinitely more difficult. When 86 percent of working Americans drive for their commute and many require valid licenses for their jobs, a revoked license could even cause someone to lose their source of income. Becoming unemployed makes it more difficult for a person to pay the debt they owe.
And, this doesn’t just set up the potential for a spiral toward poverty – it could lead to more functionally criminal behavior. Roughly 83 percent of Americans report driving a car multiple times a week. Many will continue to do so even if they lack a valid license.
Clearly, this form of punishment is causing more problems than it is solving. To address the need for reform in this area, more than 100 organizations from differing ideologies have joined together to launch the Free to Drive campaign. Notable campaign partners include the American Civil Liberties Union, Koch Industries, and Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Right on Crime campaign.
The Free to Drive website states:
“This national campaign is bringing together legal, policy, advocacy, grassroots, and research organizations committed to the principle that restrictions on driving privileges should only be used for dangerous driving, and not to coerce debt payment or to punish people who miss a court appearance.”
The very fact that almost every state in the country still uses this form of penalty makes it the perfect time for this campaign to be launched. After all, debt is not a valid reason to keep someone from driving.