Alexandria, VA – Good news if you’re one of more than 627,000 Virginians unable to get your suspended license back because of unpaid court fines and costs. The Virginia General Assembly on Wednesday approved Gov. Ralph Northam’s budget amendment – effective when the governor signs the final budget – eliminating the requirement to pay those costs in exchange for driving privileges.
“The practice of suspending a person’s driver’s license for nonpayment of court fines and costs is inequitable—it’s past time we end it,” Governor Ralph Northam said. “A driver’s license is critical to daily life, including a person’s ability to maintain a job. Eliminating a process that envelops hundreds of thousands of Virginians in a counterproductive cycle is not only fair, it’s also the right thing to do.”
The Virginia House of Delegates voted 70-30 and the Senate voted 30-10 on Northam’s budget amendment on Senate Bill 1613, which eliminate the suspensions.
Virginia Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30) introduced the bill this session.
“I applaud Gov. Northam for bringing this measure before the entire General Assembly for a vote. Unwarranted license suspension disproportionately impacts the most economically disadvantaged Virginians without making our communities safer,” Ebbin said. “Virginians rely on driving to access education, childcare, health care and employment, taking away that resource for nonpayment of a fee is cruel and illogical.”
The Legal Aid Justice Center, which is suing the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles on the issue, released a statement thanking the governor and the General Assembly.
“All Virginians must have a fair opportunity to fulfill their obligations without losing their jobs, their ability to care for their families, and their dignity,” the organization said.
BREAKING: In an overwhelming bipartisan sweep, the Senate has passed driver’s license suspension repeal 30-8!! Nearly 1 million Virginians will no longer have to choose between driving illegally and supporting their families, ending Va’s most pernicious form of debtor’s prison! pic.twitter.com/6Rj4FIQM2c
— Legal Aid Justice Center (@LegalAidJustice) April 3, 2019