Last Wednesday, both the Assembly and the State Senate passed the Driver’s License Suspension Reform Act, which requires income-based payment plans to be made available for fines, fees and other charges that are incurred as a result of traffic law violations.
The legislation, if signed into law, would also end license suspensions due to traffic debt and reinstate licenses for drivers who had it suspended for that reason.
The Assembly passed it with 91 votes, while the State Senate had 39 supporters.
“Today’s vote brings New York closer to ending harmful driver’s license suspension policies that fuels mass criminalization, economic inequality and racial injustice,” said Katie Adamides, New York State Director at the Fines and Fees Justice Center (FFJC). “Families are increasingly struggling to make ends meet during COVID-19. Now is the time to stop this vicious cycle of poverty and punishment.”
According to the FFJC, the majority of driver’s license suspensions in New York are for traffic tickets that residents cannot afford to pay, forcing them into a cycle of debt.
Between January 2016 and April 2018, New York issued nearly 1.7 million driver’s license suspensions for traffic debt. Advocates say Black and Latino drivers are disproportionately stopped, ticketed and charged.
Erika Lorshbough, deputy policy director at the New York Civil Liberties Union, said THE bill will help break the cycle of debt that exacerbates racial and economic disparities.
“The Driver’s License Suspension Reform Act is an important piece of ending the dangerous impacts of racist policing and wealth inequality,” she said. “Driver’s license suspensions should be used for the limited purpose of keeping unsafe drivers off of the road, not as a debt-collection mechanism.”
In the last three years, nine states in the United States, including California, Texas and Virginia, have passed similar legislation.
Lisa Schreibersdorf, executive director of Brooklyn Defender Services, was among the organizations that applauded the bill’s passage.
“It is more urgent now than ever, as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, that Governor Cuomo promptly sign this bill into law,” she said, “so that New Yorkers can safely get to their essential jobs, attend medical appointments and care for family.”