FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 22, 2020
Contact: Jessica Floyd | JFloyd@Skdknick.com |
NYUJ PRAISES ALBANY LEGISLATORS FOR PASSING LANDMARK LEGISLATION THAT ENDS DRIVER’S LICENSE SUSPENSIONS FOR FAILURE TO PAY MOST TRAFFIC FINES; RESTORES DRIVING RIGHTS TO THOSE WHO HAVE HAD LICENSES SUSPENDED
NYUJ: Bill Will Restore Driving Rights to Over 1 Million or More New Yorkers, Benefiting Those Who Depend on Their Cars to Make Ends Meet Especially During Pandemic
NEW YORK – New Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ) applauds the New York State Legislature for passing S.5348B, a landmark bill that prohibits the state from suspending driver’s licenses for most unpaid traffic tickets or for failure to answer or appear following a summons for traffic violations. The bill also retroactively cancels driver’s license suspensions for New Yorkers who have had their licenses suspended for failure to appear for a traffic summons or failure to pay most traffic-related fines, representing a hugely positive step forward toward restoring a critical lifeline for New Yorkers that depend on their vehicles to support their families, without fear of further prosecution.
A report from the Driven by Justice project, which is spearheaded by Fines and Fees Justice Center, found that between January 2016 and April 2018, New York issued nearly 1.7 million driver’s license suspensions for traffic debt. And a person who continues to drive on a suspended license for traffic ticket debt or failure to appear may be arrested and subject to further prosecution, regardless of whether they know their license is suspended. This legislation will change that.
NYUJ recently called on courts to suspend the practice of incarcerating or suspending the driver’s licenses of individuals who have failed to pay a fine or a fee in its recently released Principles for the Criminal Justice System during COVID-19, citing the need to not further penalize New Yorkers for their inability to pay court debts with over 2 million New Yorkers out of work due to COVID-19. This important legislation will prevent further economic harm to families already struggling and who rely on vehicles for their employment.
“With the passage of the Driver’s License Suspension Reform Act, the DMV will never again be able to deprive a New Yorker from earning a living for themselves and their families by taking away a driver license over minor traffic fines,” said Khalil A. Cumberbatch, Chief Strategist at New Yorkers United for Justice. “The pandemic sidelined millions of hard-working New Yorkers and left many of them unemployed with limited means to provide for their households. As a result, to earn money during this difficult time, many New Yorkers have turned to the gig workforce, which requires access to a car and valid driver’s license. We applaud the New York State Senate for prioritizing this commonsense criminal justice reform legislation.”
“This bill will bring relief to millions of New Yorkers who have had their licenses suspended due to unpaid traffic debt that can quickly become insurmountable” said Lauren Krisai, Senior Policy Analyst at the Coalition for Public Safety and NYUJ Board Member.“This legislation comes at a critical time when over 2 million New Yorkers are out of work and dependent on their vehicles to help make ends meet. We applaud the legislature for passing this important bill that will benefit so many New Yorkers, particularly those who are struggling financially during this unprecedented pandemic.”
In addition to the changes listed above, The Drivers License Reform Act requires notifications of traffic violations to be sent via first-class mail, and that the commissioner works with local and state law enforcement agencies to make “best efforts” to send notifications by email, text message, and/or phone call. This legislation also requires courts to offer a payment plan to all individuals charged with a traffic violation, and grants the court discretion to reduce or waive any fine, fee, or mandatory surcharge required for these violations, easing the burden for New Yorkers who are struggling to make ends meet during this pandemic.
About New Yorker United for Justice (NYUJ):
New Yorkers United for Justice is a statewide coalition of local and national non-profit organizations committed to supporting a movement that will bring much-needed criminal justice reform to New York State and ensure that policies promote safety and fairness. NYUJ aims for legislative urgency to fix a broken criminal justice system that punishes the poor and communities of color, tears families apart, and makes New Yorkers less safe. NYUJ believes that a system that ensures equal access to justice for anyone accused in New York State, regardless of age, race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin or religion, must be the standard.