Virginia Suspends Hundreds of Thousands of Driver’s Licenses Due to Unpaid Court Debt

More than 900,000 people in Virginia have suspended licenses, in what a new class-action lawsuit claims is an unconstitutional revenue scheme.
News Story (Virginia)

CJ Ciaramella
August 4, 2016

Tags: Driver's license suspension

Organizations mentioned/involved: Legal Aid Justice Center (Virginia), Bay Area Legal Aid (San Francisco), Western Center on Law & Poverty (WCLP) (CA)


Taylor is one of four named plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit filed in July by the Legal Aid Justice Center, an organization that provides free legal services to low-income Virginia residents, challenging Virginia’s policy of suspending drivers licenses indefinitely for unpaid court debts. The state automatically suspends licenses if court fines and fees remain unpaid for more than 30 days. The lawsuit argues that the state’s failure to assess whether indigent defendants can afford those fines violates their constitutional rights to due process and equal protection under the law.

“Driver’s license suspension is Virginia’s form of a debtors’ prison,” Angela Ciolfi, a senior attorney at the Legal Aid Justice Center, said in a statement. “Many areas of the state provide no reliable public transportation, effectively leaving people confined to their homes or forcing them to risk jail time by driving on suspended licenses.”