The state Legislature has approved ending the practice of automatic suspension of driver's licenses over unpaid fines or missed court appearances, and we urge Gov. Andrew Cuomo to join them in supporting the change.
Advocates for the change have argued that automatic suspensions disproportionately affect low-income residents and people of color, because people who fail to pay a fine or fail to appear at a hearing do so because they cannot afford to pay the full fine or to take time off work to go to court, while drivers with higher income and plenty of free time to show up in traffic court get their tickets taken care of much more quickly.
Criminal defense attorney groups in New York are among those rallying for the change, calling the current suspension policy "unjust, irrational, and racially discriminatory in its enforcement" and asserting that vehicle and traffic violations are enforced disproportionately against people of color and that the financial impact of losing a driver’s license "are borne disproportionately by persons of color with limited financial resources."
And changing the rules doesn't mean that drivers who get ticketed never need to pay a fine, it would allow people to make monthly payments, based on their income, to get caught up. The payment plans would offer a fair way for low-income people to pay traffic fines without suffering even greater consequences by losing their driving privileges.
There is a lot of strong evidence that supports amending the current practice, and we hope that Cuomo will sign it into law.
The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Michelle Bowers, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.
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