SPLC Sues Over Driver License Suspensions

Nov 21, 2018

A new federal lawsuit is challenging Alabama's practice of suspending the driver's licenses of people who are unable to pay their traffic tickets.

The lawsuit filed Monday in federal court in Montgomery says the practice violates the Fourteenth Amendment by "punishing persons simply because they are poor."

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed the lawsuit on behalf of three Alabama residents who had their licenses suspended. According to the lawsuit, nearly 23,000 Alabamians currently have suspended licenses because of their inability to pay traffic tickets.

Plaintiffs' attorneys argue the loss of a driver's license can have "devastating consequences" for a person's ability to earn a living and "meet basic human needs" in a state with limited public transportation options.

Last year, Mississippi agreed to stop suspending people's driver's licenses purely because they hadn't paid court fines and fees. Licenses in Mississippi continue to be suspended for people who don't respond to a citation or if a judge holds someone in contempt for failing to pay fines.

Similar litigation has also been filed in North Carolina and several other states.