The “Suspension Snowball”

Suspension Snowball picking up steam

What if a construction worker were to have their hammer and screwdriver taken by the government because of a minor debt? Or an electrician who owes money had to turn in his multimeter as a penalty. These just seem idiotic, yet every day our state governments revoke the ability of thousands of residents to earn a living by suspending the driving privilege of these workers. This leads to falling deeper in debt and facing a list of increasing suspensions. This is the License Suspension Snowball!

There has been a lot of recent conversation in my office regarding what I call the “Suspension Snowball” This is the effect of a driver’s license suspension for minor or non driving violations that result in a snowball effect of increasing penalties and fines that lead to increased recidivism. This effect is amplified by lower income brackets, social astigmatism and other life altering factors.

The start of the Suspension Snowball is usually a crisis, like a death in the family, a divorce, or change in custody of children, or sudden economic downturn and loss of employment.

Emotional Crisis

When emotions are high and priorities change quickly, routine tasks can be overlooked. Simple tasks and regular bills are easily forgotten or delayed during serious emotional events. Deadlines like renewing a driver’s license, paying a car insurance, or responding to a simple traffic ticket don’t seem as important as grieving or taking care of loved ones and missing either can result in this horrible situation.

Missing just one of these can start the Suspension Snowball and can add to the devastation and life altering effects of working through a license suspension.

No Easy Way Out

The only option these residents have remaining are to ignore the law and continue to drive or lose their job, career, family and respect. To add to the crisis faced with a small misstep, the state government decided those in financial trouble do not qualify for a limited work license. The limited work license clearly outlines that failure to pay fines or judgments or maintain financial responsibility.

1533 or – Failure to Respond to a Citation

1786 – Failure to Maintain Financial Responsibility

1772 – Unsatisfied Judgment as a result of a motor vehicle operation – (Unless judgment is satisfied or an agreement is made under 1772(b), 1774, or 1775)

These are just a few of the violations that disqualify a driver from having access to a OLL – Limited Work License.

Changes Should Be Made – OLL

The first and easiest change would be granting increased access to the limited work license, let the resident keep their tools when there is a minor financial misstep. The OLL allows the state to keep track and supervision of the offender, to ensure current insurance, registration, and safety regulations are being observed, as well as being enough of a pain that no one will want to remain in the program long. It can increase the odds the municipalities or harmed parties get paid by allowing the debtor to continue to work or go to school, without letting the violator off entirely.

More needs to be done, and Pennsylvania needs to take a long hard look at how twisted this policy has become over the years. For now I can only continue to battle these on a case by case basis.