Tennessee is one of only five states requiring judges to indefinitely suspend licenses for failure to pay court fees.
News Story (NATIONAL, Tennessee)
September 26, 2017
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Tags: Debtors Prison, Driver's license suspension
Organizations mentioned/involved: Legal Aid Justice Center (Virginia), Just City (Memphis), Civil Rights Corps
A study released today by the Legal Aid Justice Center looks at driver’s license suspension policies across the nation, a topic that has been a focus of criminal justice reform advocates for years. The New York Times profiled Tennessee’s harsh policies, and the cycle of debt they create, in 2015.
The LAJC report shows why Tennessee was such a perfect setting for that story. Although some states give judges discretion about whether to suspend a license and have definite lengths of suspension, Tennessee is one of only five states that require judges to indefinitely suspend licenses for failure to pay court fees. Only four states require the courts to determine whether a person has the ability to pay their court costs and intentionally refused to do so before suspending or revoking their license. Tennessee is not one of them.