Revoking Licenses for Failure to Pay: Is Change on the Horizon?

The revocation of driver’s licenses for unpaid court costs and fines has been a hot topic of late. Much of the focus has centered around the spiral of debt that can result when an indigent person’s license is revoked for this reason. The narrative goes like this:  The person is convicted of a relatively minor violation of the motor vehicle laws. Court costs and a fine are imposed. The person, who is financially unable to do so, fails to pay those amounts. Forty days after the judgment, the clerk of court reports the failure to pay to DMV.  DMV mails a revocation order to the person, which becomes effective 60 days later.  The person could forestall or end the revocation by paying the amounts owed, but she lacks the funds to do that. Yet she must drive in order to keep her job.  So, notwithstanding the revocation, she continues to drive. Soon, she is charged with driving while license revoked and is convicted.  Court costs are imposed again.  And again, she lacks the funds to pay. DMV issues another revocation. When this cycle repeats itself over time, the person may wind up owing hundreds – or even thousands – of dollars in court debt, which, again, she lacks the resources to pay.

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