We’ve talked before about the Suspension Snowball and the devastating effect it has on Pennsylvania families. 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 stigma and other life-altering factors.
A driver who has committed no safety violations can quickly find themselves buried under cascading fines, fees and suspensions for something as simple as non-payment of a traffic ticket or missing a letter in the mail. For a resident of means, this is no more than an inconvenience that can be taken care of with a check. But what happens if you’re struggling to balance your bills and take care of your family? Losing your license takes away your ability to work and pay the fines that have already accumulated, causing even more fines to pile up.
Lawsuit Seeks to Stop the Suspension Snowball
According to a News Observer report, a recent lawsuit in North Carolina may decide whether they continue the practice of revoking driving privileges for non-payment of fines and other non-safety related offenses. Consider the case of Seti Johnson, one of the defendants named in the suit:
“After a routine traffic stop last summer in Cabarrus County, he was surprised to learn that his license had been revoked for unpaid traffic tickets. He was forced to use his rent money to pay off the more than $700 he owed to reinstate his license.
“His license was reinstated, but not before he received a separate ticket for driving while his license was revoked. Though that charge was reduced, the court ordered Johnson to pay a $100 fine and $208 in court costs.
“Because he could not pay the full amount that day, choosing to settle the fine first, another $20 was added to Johnson’s overall bill. But without a job, Johnson has struggled to pay the rest. He fears he will lose his license again.”
This is a textbook example of the Suspension Snowball. This issue has gained the attention of the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center, who feel that the practice of suspending licenses for non-payment is predatory to those with low income and exacerbates the cycle of poverty.
Should Pennsylvania be the next state to end this unjust and counterproductive practice? Large areas of Pennsylvania are not served by adequate public transportation, which makes working without a license nearly impossible. Compile on that the employers who stress above almost all else – Needs A Valid Driver’s License. Taking away a person’s ability to work while requiring that they pay larger and larger fines is tantamount to criminalizing poverty through the DMV and licensing system. Pennsylvania should lead the way in ending the practice of revoking licenses for non-safety violations by removing license suspension laws that are not related to safe driving as Rep Rick Saccone has done here – https://www.facebook.com/RepSaccone/videos/update:-my-legislation-house-bill/1883752541644436/
In the meantime, we will continue to fight these on a case by case basis to get relief for people stuck in the Suspension Snowball.