The poverty penalty: Should states suspend driver’s licenses for court scofflaws?

When it comes to court debt, most states — including Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey — will suspend your driver’s license until you pay up.
News Story (Pennsylvania)

Dana DiFilippo
November 27, 2017

Tags: Driver's license suspension

Organizations mentioned/involved: Legal Aid Justice Center (Virginia)


But that strategy, intended to stymie scofflaws, instead “arbitrarily and unapologetically equates poverty with defiance,” trapping poor people in a “perpetual state of punishment,” according to one advocacy group that is calling on lawmakers to reform the system.

“Driver’s license suspension for defaulting on court debt is counterproductive. It’s a vicious cycle: People can’t afford to pay, so we suspend their licenses. Now they can’t drive legally to work, so they lose their jobs or they can’t find jobs, and then that makes them even less likely to pay,” said attorney Angela Ciolfi, director of litigation and advocacy for the Virginia-based Legal Aid Justice Center.