I’ve talked for a long time about the effect of license suspensions for those who are not convicted of a safety crime. Issues like reckless driving or DUI warrant a license suspension as they could result in serious personal injury…a true safety concern. But what about failing to pay child support, missing a payment to court, or missing a vehicle registration payment? All of these issues are financial crimes…and along with a number of other issues they lead to license suspension that may last for years until everything is paid plus fees. This is how the Suspension Snowball starts!
These financial crimes are not a crime with a safety concern, they mostly have nothing to do with operating a vehicle, these issues come about because the state uses a driver’s license as an enforcement tool. An enforcement tool that perpetuates the problem as people fall deeper into the snowballing debt at the same time as they are hamstrung with no transportation and potential loss of job and income. How is someone to get caught up on these earlier minor financial issues?
Imagine you are a carpenter and someone takes away your hammer!
There is no way you can continue in your profession without your hammer. You could try glue, or use a rock…but eventually, the work will dry up as the work product suffers and the delays cause unhappy employers. In fact, most employment opportunities require a carpenter to have a hammer as current job listings require transportation where the Suspension Snowball is affecting the largest population. This population needs help to get out of this snowballing effect and Pennsylvania is just now starting to wake up to this plea. Some legislators have noticed the impact on Pennsylvania’s workforce and family stability. These legislators have started proposing new policy to remove punitive license suspensions where public safety is not the primary cause of the penalty.
Legislators like Rick Saccone’s new bill that would eliminate license suspensions for non-vehicle related crimes. See this video for more information.
Other Options Beyond License Suspension
There are alternatives to operating a motor vehicle. There are even programs created by the state in an attempt to avoid the hardship of losing your driver’s license. None of these options take into account how integral easy transportation is to the classes hit especially hard by these penalties. In fact, the limited work license (Occupational Limited License) is available to some for very minor violations…but anyone caught in these financial issues outlined above….issues like failing to pay a fine or falling behind on child support….or even a judgment from a vehicle accident…will qualify for the OLL. In fact, the OLL fact sheet specifically disqualifies ANYONE suffering through these non-vehicle crimes.
What can be done?
In some cases we have been able to build a plan to help stop the Suspension Snowball by removing suspension time, correcting issues with driver records, and decoding the confusing process of repayment. There are times when full payment is not necessary, or payment plans can be acquired to have the license suspension lifted. But it is not enough. The state needs to take a greater role in opening up the Limited Work License to anyone suffering through a non-vehicle related license suspension. By offering this simple and restricted license it gives a resident the ability to continue to drive, keep their job, grow their income and repay the debt.