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Bill would reduce driver's license suspensions for failing to pay fines and fees

lorenz.markus97 / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 / MGN
lorenz.markus97 / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 / MGN(KALB)
Published: Feb. 12, 2020 at 10:28 AM CST
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More than one million Floridians had their driver's licenses suspended for failure to pay fines and fees in 2017 alone.

“This amounts to 72% of the total driver's license suspension notices that year,” said Ashley Thomas with the Fines and Fees Justice Center.

And when people can’t drive, criminal justice advocates say it makes it harder to work and harder to pay.

“Suspending a driver's license because of fees and fines threatens not only a driver's ability to get to work, but being able to drive for work,” said Alex Miller with the Florida Trucking Association.

But a bill moving through both the [Florida] House and the Senate aims to reduce those license suspensions by making it easier for people to get on affordable payment plans.

“You have 30 days to engage your Clerk of Court to say that you want to create a payment plan. After that you have another 60 days to work out the mechanics of what that is,” said bill sponsor Representative Byron Donalds.

Unlike in previous years, this year’s bill doesn’t completely do away with driver's license suspensions for failing to pay fines and fees.

It also doesn’t allow the debts to be dropped.

“But by putting them on a reasonable payment plan that's based on their ability to pay, their ability to comply with the payment plan will increase,” said Thomas.

And Rep. Donalds said at the end of the day, the current system just isn’t working.

“I know in Collier County there's $94 million in uncollected fines and fees associated with driver's license suspension. So the clerks aren't getting the money now,” said Donalds.

Clerks of Courts have not taken an official stance on the legislation, but their statewide office told us in a statement, “It is a priority component of the Clerks’ legislative agenda this year to work with the legislature on innovative solutions that help reduce driver license suspensions, without eliminating the ability to do so when necessary.”

Florida is among eleven states considering legislation to reduce or eliminate driver's license suspensions for failure to pay fines and fees.

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