Jul 18, 2016
Legal Aid Justice Center says more than 940,000 people in Virginia currently have suspended driver's licenses for non-payment of fines and court fees. The Center filed a class action suit against the Department of Motor Vehicles in U.S. District Court in Western Virginia stating: “Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their licenses simply because they are too poor to pay, effectively depriving them of reliable, lawful transportation necessary to get to and from work, take children to school, keep medical appointments, care for ill or disabled family members, or paradoxically, to meet their financial obligations to the courts.”
Similar complaints have been made in other jurisdictions. After protests in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014 over the fatal shooting by a cop of Michael Brown, an investigation found that police had been acting as collection agents, enforcing traffic laws to increase revenue.
The suit also says Virginia receives ever-greater revenues from court fines and fees, with money increasing “from 281.5 million dollars in fiscal 1998 to 618.8 million in 2014.”
Col. Martin Kumer, the superintendent of the Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail, who isn't involved in the suit, said he sees too many people being incarcerated for driving with a suspended license.
“We have to stop locking people up because they are too poor to pay fines and court costs,” said Kumer. If it’s revenue they are after, why not give people jobs? Employed people pay taxes. Putting people to work would benefit everyone.