A 2016 study in California from the East Bay Community Law Center found that license suspensions for failing to pay fines or appear in court are “directly correlated with poverty indicators and with race,” with driver’s license suspension rates ranging as high as five times the state average in communities that are primarily Black or Latino.
One thing is clear, traffic stops disproportionately impact people of color, said Zachary Norris, the executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. A 2016 study by the East Bay Community Law Center found black residents in Oakland made up 70 percent of all traffic stops but only 26.5 percent of the population.
November 28, 2017: Alameda County Superior Court has recalled over 83,000 DMV Failure to Pay (FTP) driver license holds to comply with newly enacted legislation Assembly Bill 103.
Phan worked with staff attorney Theresa Zhen for months before he was finally able to get his license back, just before the passage of AB 103. “None of these things happen in a vacuum,” Zhen said. “It takes a movement of lawyers, community groups, and people who are brave enough to tell their story.”
UpFront speaks with Theresa Zhen, Staff Attorney at the Clean Slate Practice of the East Bay Community Law Center and member of the Back on the Road California Coalition, which fights for traffic court reform. She is also a co-author of Ability to Pay Implementation in Traffic Court: A Toolkit for Advocates. Theresa tells us about ways to get your traffic tickets expunged.
States have trapped millions of Americans in crippling debt by taking away their driver’s licenses. Can the damage be undone?[…]“As the amount of uncollected court debt increases and more driver’s licenses are suspended, everybody loses. The state Legislature loses, the counties lose, employers lose, our clients lose the most,” Theresa Zhen, who works at the East Bay Community Law Center in Oakland, California, told me before the state’s bill passed.
The governor’s proposed budget states in part: “there does not appear to be a strong connection between suspending someone’s driver’s license and collecting their fine or penalty. Often, the primary consequence of a driver’s license suspension is the inability to legally drive to work or take one’s children to school. Therefore, the budget proposes to eliminate the statutory provisions related to suspending driver’s licenses for failure to pay fines and penalties.”
The Back on the Road coalition, made up of seven California organizations and supported by the ACLU, claims that an individual’s driver’s license can only be suspended legally if the person has “willfully” failed to appear or pay a fine. Simply being “too poor to pay the fine,” according to the coalition’s complaint, isn’t enough to establish intent as required by law.
A coalition of legal aid and civil rights organizations sued the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) this morning for illegally suspending the driver’s licenses of low-income Californians.
On October 25, 2016, advocates of the Back on the Road Coalition filed suit against the Department of Motor Vehicles to stop the unlawful practice of driver’s license suspensions for failure to pay a traffic fine.